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Right Turn
Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 09/01/2011

Human rights spotlight: Libya’s human rights atrocities

The BBC reports:

Slowly but surely, atrocities committed by the Gaddafi regime are being uncovered. In the week and more since Libyan rebels entered Tripoli, horror stories of human rights violations have been emerging.
The UN’s rights body (OHCHR) says it is extremely alarmed by the reports of mass killings.
“We are also deeply concerned about reports that there are still thousands of people unaccounted for who were arrested or taken prisoner by Gaddafi security forces either earlier in the conflict, or before it even started,” said a spokesperson for OHCHR. . . .
The fate of those imprisoned 15 years ago will surely have been on the minds of the Libyans who have disappeared since the current conflict began in February this year.
In the main square in rebel-held Benghazi, families have posted up hundreds of photographs of the missing. It is assumed that many of them had been held in prisons and detention centres by pro-Gaddafi forces.
Human rights groups are now struggling to gather information about what has happened over the past few weeks. It is proving difficult to gauge the scale of the human rights abuses.

President Obama’s sloth-like response to Moammar Gaddafi’s terror campaign against his own people had its costs. And two of them are the prolonged agony of the Libyan people and the limited access the outside world now has to assess the human rights atrocities.

The Telegraph reported:

A US-based human rights watchdog yesterday said that the Gaddafi regime forced civilians to act as human shields, and placed children on Libyan tanks to deter NATO airstrikes.
Physicians for Human Rights said it had also found evidence of a pattern of murders, rapes “disappearances” and other apparent war crimes during an investigation in the city of Misurata in June.
“Four eyewitnesses reported that troops forcibly detained 107 civilians and used them as human shields to guard military munitions from NATO attacks south of Misrata,” their report said.
The group also said a witness reported that a primary school in the city had been turned into a detention site where Gaddafi troops “raped women and girls as young as 14 years old”.
In one instance, three sisters aged 15, 17 and 18 were raped by troops before being killed by their father in an attempt to rid the family of the shame, the report said.

Nevertheless, the rebel leaders of the National Transitional Council are objecting to the presence of U.N. military observers and police to help restore order, train rebel security forces and, of course, provide independent verification of the human rights atrocities.

Last week, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams wrote: “The real debate will be over whether the fall of Qaddafi vindicates Obama’s policy. It does not. The question was never whether the United States, EU, NATO, Arab League, U.N. Security Council, and African Union could together using economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and military attacks bring Qaddafi down. The question was always how much time, how much blood, and what damage to NATO. Had the White House acted sooner and more resolutely Qaddafi could have been brought down sooner, and with fewer Libyan deaths.”

Tragically, we are finding many, many Libyan deaths. A full accounting of those murders and the other human rights atrocities must be undertaken and the perpetrators brought to justice. But in that accounting we should also undertake a serious investigation as to the timeline of the war and whether earlier or more robust action could have minimized the suffering.

Make no mistake: Responsibility for the horrors lies with those who killed and maimed and tortured.

But as the lone superpower America has responsibilities as well — to lead, not follow, and to act with swiftness, determination and effectiveness. Did we do that in Libya? Not so much.

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 09/01/2011

Categories:  foreign policy, Human Rights

 
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