Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi has ordered the slaughter of his own people, with the death toll reported to have exceeded 1000. Yet the United Nations has sunk to a new low (if that is possible) in addressing the massacres in Libya.
Although Qaddafi’s regime is violating the most basic human rights of its own people as it deploys tanks, planes and helicopters against peaceful protesters and imports mercenaries to do much of the dirty work, Libya remains a member of good standing on the United Nations Human Rights Council. United Nations officials have limited themselves to verbal condemnations rather than demanding, for starters, Libya’s immediate suspension from the Human Rights Council as long as the current regime remains in power. And there is no sign that the UN is reassessing its relationship with Qaddafi’s daughter, Dr. Aicha Qaddafi, whom the UN has designated a “goodwill ambassador,” or attempting to use her as a “goodwill ambassador” to persuade her father to stop the massacres.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an immediate cessation of the “grave” rights violations committed by the Libyan authorities and for an “independent investigation” into the violent suppression of protests. An independent investigation isn’t going to help the civilians who are being mowed down in the streets. And what would such an investigation prove anyway, other than confirm what we already know? Muammar Qaddafi said he would “cleanse Libya house by house.” His son threatened protesters with “rivers of blood.” They are making good on their threats. Qaddafi’s mercenaries and loyal military forces are shooting to kill as many protesters as they can to end the rebellion.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, Christof Heyns, stressed that the Libyan regime’s acts against its people cannot go unpunished. But so far, there have been no punishments coming from the United Nations, only empty words.
“By engaging in a massacre of its own people,” Heyns said, “the Government of Libya is guilty of committing gross violations of human rights which could amount to crimes against humanity.” It appears that he may be holding out for the independent investigation recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, before coming to the self-evident conclusion that the government’s shooting of its own unarmed citizens to death in cold blood definitely is a crime against humanity that deserves immediate punishment.
For his part, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon picked up the telephone and spoke for about forty minutes with Qaddafi. The Secretary General said that he told Qaddafi to “stop violence against demonstrators” and that “human rights and freedom of assembly and freedom of speech must be fully protected.” Nothing like a civics lesson on the phone to stop this madman from creating a killing field of innocent civilians.
In a conversation about Libya with the Emir of Qatar, the Secretary General and Emir agreed that the international community, in particular Arab leaders and the UN, should call for an immediate end to the acts of violence, and for the “launch of a broad-based dialogue.” It doesn’t seem like Qaddafi is much interested in “dialogue” these days, as he carries out his threat to “cleanse Libya house by house.” How do you have a “dialogue” with a madman who said: “Moammar Khadafy is history, resistance, liberty, glory, revolution. Moammar Khadafy is not a normal person you can poison or lead a revolution against…I will die here as a martyr.”
Ban Ki-moon also told reporters that he has spoken to the top military leadership of Egypt about the crisis in Libya. “I’m going to dispatch senior officials to Egypt soon,” he said, “and I sincerely hope that this will start reflecting the wishes and aspirations of the Libyan people.” How his contact with the Egyptian military brass, which is still dealing with the aftermath of Egypt’s own revolution, would help fulfill the aspirations of the Libyan people, he did not say.
Ban Ki-moon’s press spokesman also released a statement setting forth the Secretary General’s expression of outrage:
The Secretary-General is outraged at press reports that the Libyan authorities have been firing at demonstrators from war planes and helicopters. Such attacks against civilians, if confirmed, would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law and would be condemned by the Secretary-General in the strongest terms.
What kind of confirmation is Ban Ki-moon looking for? A notarized signed confession from Qaddafi? And what does the Secretary General have in mind, if anything, when promising to condemn the violence in “the strongest terms”?
When the Secretary General’s spokesman was asked specifically what the UN was doing about reports that Qaddafi was recruiting mercenaries from Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana, he replied that he was not aware of the UN looking into the matter. Why such neglect when the UN has in the past specifically focused its attention on the use of mercenaries by other countries?
Then there is the United Nations Security Council, which met in closed session on February 22nd to ponder an appropriate response to the violence. What followed the meeting was a bland statement in which the council members “condemned the violence and use of force against civilians, deplored the repression against peaceful demonstrators, and expressed deep regret at the deaths of hundreds of civilians.”
Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, which holds the monthly presidency of the 15-member body for February, told the press following closed-door talks on the crisis that the council members urged “national dialogue.” Apparently “dialogue” is the word de jour at the United Nations even as civilians continue to be slaughtered.
What could the United Nations do besides issue toothless condemnations and call for “dialogue”?
For one thing, the UN’s leaders could look to Libya’s United Nations delegation for guidance. Libya’s ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali, called for Qaddafi to resign and said that he cannot “support the government killing our people.” The deputy ambassador to the UN and staff members of the Libyan UN delegation defected and called upon the homicidal dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to step down and leave the country. The deputy ambassador urged other countries to join in this demand.
The United Nations, starting with the Secretary General, should refuse any further recognition of the present Libyan regime as the legitimate representatives of the people of Libya, just as Libya’s UN delegation has done. As mentioned earlier, Libya should be immediately suspended from the UN Human Rights Council. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen as long as the Human Rights Council is populated by other human rights abusers such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, despite the Obama administration’s decision to join the Human Rights Council with the fruitless goal of “reforming” it from within.
The Security Council could have considered a range of actions beyond making a meaningless statement, such as imposing an arms embargo on Libya, a travel ban and an asset freeze on senior Libyan officials and military commanders who remain loyal to the regime, and a no-fly zone to stop Libyan aircraft firing on protesters. All countries could also have been put on immediate alert to stop the flow of mercenaries to Libya. But with China likely to exercise a veto against any meaningful action in order to protect its vast commercial interests in Libya (in 2010, trade between China and Libya grew to $6.6 billion), don’t expect such actions any time soon.
The United Nations has once again proven its worthlessness in dealing with mass slaughters by brutal, dictatorial regimes. Whether we look at the horrors of Rwanda in 1994 where the UN leadership deliberately ignored warnings coming from their representative on the ground of an impending genocide, or we look at Bosnia in 1995 where the UN let the Serbs alone in return for Serbian promises not to harm the UN peacekeepers themselves, as the Serbians proceeded to commit horrible atrocities against the Bosnians, or we look at the Middle East, where the UN has rewarded aggression against Israel on repeated occasions or we look at dozens of other examples, the United Nations has proven incapable of enforcing norms of civilized behavior in a lawless world.
Libya is but the latest example.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.
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