Thursday, March 31, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
UN Answers Libyans' Cry for Freedom With Global Protection
March 21 (Bloomberg) -- The cheering on the streets of Benghazi when the United Nations approved military action against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi signaled something critics have long doubted: that the UN can play a vital role in an exploding crisis.
The Obama administration and its European allies said they wouldn't have begun armed intervention without the legality conferred by the UN Security Council, and the resolution adopted by a 10-to-0 vote with 5 abstentions puts Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the middle of its implementation.
"This is 21st century intervention, an extraordinary step that pushes the envelope for the UN," Jeff Laurenti, UN analyst at the New York-based Century Foundation research group, said in an interview. Intervening in an internal conflict such as Libya "goes beyond previous non-aggression measures such the steps taken against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990."
The UN action on Libya contrasts with its failure to intervene in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the difference drew praise from those who have previously criticized the world body for its response to human-rights abuses, including Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights.
"The Security Council has defied expectations and risen to the occasion by making clear that all options are on the table to prevent mass atrocities," Roth said in a statement. It now needs to deal as decisively with other crises, such as halting "mass atrocities" in Ivory Coast, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, he said.
Libya is a "relatively easy case of a brutal dictator with few friends," Roth said.
President Barack Obama's decision to work through the UN also contrasted with then-President George W. Bush's move to sidestep the Security Council when he invaded Iraq in 2003. Then, the U.S. withdrew a draft resolution to authorize military force against Saddam Hussein when it became clear it wouldn't pass and began the invasion two days later -- eight years ago this week.
Adopting two Libya sanctions resolutions in three weeks, the first approved unanimously after some behind-the-scenes differences, shows the Security Council's ability to act even with some internal discord. China and Russia refrained from casting vetoes that would have reflected their objections. Aspiring permanent members Brazil, Germany and India expressed their concerns by abstaining instead of voting against.
"The UN has gone through decades when the international community has experienced gross violations of civilian populations," Ban said in an interview March 19 in Paris, where he was briefed on the allied attacks. "Sometimes the UN was not able to take proper measures because of the divisions of member states. I am encouraged that the member states and the Security Council have shown their leadership."
Ban arrived last night in Cairo from Paris and went straight to a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El- Arabi. He met today with Amr Moussa, general secretary of the Arab League, who said the group remains committed to the no-fly zone in Libya.
Ban said the UN "stands ready to help protect civilians and promote reform." He condemned violence against demonstrators in Yemen and cited rising violence in Bahrain. "You cannot hold back demands for democracy and reform," he said.
The secretary general was forced to drop plans to walk through Tahrir Square -- scene of massive demonstrations last month that toppled President Hosni Mubarak -- before flying to Tunis. Ban was turned back after he left the press conference and was surrounded by a group of about 40 pro-Qaddafi demonstrators chanting "Down, Down USA!" and waving their fists at the secretary general.
The Security Council has scheduled talks on the allied military action for 3 p.m. today in New York, at the request of Qaddafi's foreign minister, Musa Kousa. In a March 19 letter to the Security Council Kousa asks for "an emergency meeting in order to halt this aggression, which is not aimed at protecting civilians, as is purported, but rather to strike civilian sites, economic facilities and sites belonging" to Libya's army.
In addition to invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes military action to force compliance with UN demands, the no-fly resolution in seven instances either tells governments to report to Ban on their military action, or gives him a vital role in other enforcement tools. He must report to the Security Council weekly on its implementation.
The no-fly resolution also marks the first implementation of the 2005 global agreement on the "responsibility to protect," a doctrine that says collective action is justified when a government commits acts of genocide or other atrocities against its people. Bush and 170 other world leaders reached the accord at a UN summit in New York.
"Since that controversial principle was introduced, it has been endorsed in general and hesitant terms," Bruce Jones, senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution said in an e-mail. "Libya was the first time it's been forcefully invoked in respect of a specific crisis."
The resolution, adopted after Obama last week decided to back a no-fly zone, also shows his administration's commitment to the UN and ability to work closely with Ban.
Bush was publicly antagonistic during his first term, particularly after former Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared the Iraq war to be illegal because it wasn't explicitly authorized by the Security Council.
Ban's relationship with Bush was "not a harmonious one" at first, Ban said in an interview in January at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York. That changed gradually in Bush's second term, he said, as the U.S. sought UN help imposing sanctions to block Iran's nuclear ambitions and to end the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Obama Embraces UN
Obama has embraced the UN system in a way Bush never did. The U.S. joined the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, supported a General Assembly declaration urging the decriminalization of homosexuality and gave government funds to a UN agency that offers abortion counseling. Obama also backed a treaty to regulate the trade in conventional weapons and agreed to strengthen the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"The U.S. has taken very strong leadership and a determined, principled position," Ban said of the administration's role in getting the no-fly resolution adopted.
An Italian government official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to be identified in public statements, credited the combination of Obama's leadership and Ban's characteristic behind-the-scenes diplomacy for overcoming concerns of Brazil, China, Germany, India and Russia to get the no-fly resolution passed.
"The solicitude by Washington for the Security Council" shows the Obama administration has "learned to play with others in the global sandbox," Laurenti said.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at email@example.comFind out more about Bloomberg for iPhone: http://m.bloomberg.com/iphone/
U.S. Facing Loss of Key Ally Against Al-Qaeda Group in Yemen
March 22 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is on the verge of
losing a key ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, as Yemeni President
Ali Abdullah Saleh appears unlikely to weather a popular uprising and
defections among his ruling elite, former U.S. officials said.
"It's clear at this point that Saleh will have to step down,"
Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said in an
interview yesterday. With the "mounting numbers of senior people in
his administration resigning, we know it's over. The terms of his
departure, I think, are still being negotiated."
The March 18 killing of at least 46 protesters allegedly by police and
pro-regime gunmen -- which drew condemnation from Obama and Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton and prompted the defection of key military,
tribal and government officials -- may well be the tipping point.
Obama's counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, told Saleh in a
telephone call March 20 "that that kind of violence is
unacceptable," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser
for strategic communications, said aboard Air Force One yesterday.
Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, has been struggling to hang
on since demonstrations inspired by those in Egypt and Tunisia began
two months ago. The government deployed tanks yesterday to protect the
"There's clearly going to have to be a political solution in Yemen
that includes a government that is more responsive to the Yemeni
people," Rhodes said.
Until last week, there was a "fading hope that somehow Saleh could
reach an accommodation with the opposition," said David Newton,
another former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, which the United Nations
ranks as the poorest Arab country.
"Friday really tore it," said Newton, now a scholar at the Middle
East Institute in Washington, referring to the shootings. "He's
going. It's hopeless."
Saleh's departure is likely to undermine, at least temporarily, U.S.
counterterrorism efforts, Yemen experts said. Saleh has been an
important ally in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,
the Yemen-based group responsible for sending two parcel bombs to U.S.
synagogues in October and the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound
plane on Christmas Day 2009.
Because of Saleh's cooperation, the Obama administration "has been
reluctant to be too critical" in its comments, said Christopher
Boucek, a Yemen analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace in Washington.
Clinton, on a visit to Yemen in January, said that Yemen- based
terrorists are an "urgent concern" for the U.S. Yemen, which gets
about $300 million a year in U.S. security and humanitarian
assistance, stepped up operations against al-Qaeda after the attempted
Last week's deadly violence, the worst in two months of protests,
prompted the resignation of three ministers, members of parliament,
and at least three diplomats. Numerous top military officials declared
support for the opposition.
Saleh, who said security forces weren't responsible, sacked his
cabinet, and prosecutors issued 10 arrest warrants in connection with
U.S. analysts said the White House will have to be nimble in revamping
in its Yemen policy.
"The hope is to come through a transition with at least some
cooperative measures still intact," said Steven Simon, a Middle East
fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
Yemen faces a failing economy, serious water shortages, declining oil
output and a society where more than half the population of 23 million
is under 20 years old and about 40 percent of the people live on the
equivalent of less than $2 a day.
"Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and fighting terrorism is our
biggest problem, but it's not Yemen's number-one priority,"
The Yemeni government is struggling to quell two internal revolts, a
secessionist movement in the south and a Shiite uprising in the north.
Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based wing has also launched cross-border attacks on
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter.
The course of events for Saleh may largely depend on the loyalty of
people in the central security forces and the Republican Guard, said
Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University in New Jersey.
"If President Saleh steps down, it'll all go over peacefully," he
said. "If he attempts to fight this, then it could get very, very
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Monday, March 21, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
BBC Arabic staff attacked in Libya
Three members of the BBC Arabic team in Tripoli were detained and beaten while reporting on the situation in Libya. They were arrested on Monday (07 March) and taken to various barracks where they suffered repeated assaults, were masked and handcuffed, and were subject to a mock execution.
Below is a transcript of an interview with the three BBC staff members, conducted by Jeremy Bowen (BBC Middle East Editor).
Liliane Landor (Controller Languages BBC Global News) said, "The BBC strongly condemns this abusive treatment of our journalists and calls on the Libyan government to ensure all media are able to report freely and are protected from persecution.
"The safety of our staff is our primary concern especially when they are working in such difficult circumstances and it is essential that journalists working for the BBC, or any media organisation, are allowed to report on the situation in Libya without fear of attack.
"Despite these attacks, the BBC will continue to cover the evolving story in Libya for our audiences both inside and outside the country."
Members of BBC team:
Feras Killani (Palestinian refugee: Syrian passport)
Goktay Koraltan (Turkish)
Chris Cobb-Smith (British)
They were arrested at a checkpoint at around 1530 on Monday 7 March. The checkpoint was at Al Zahra 6 miles south of Zawiyah. They were with a local driver who was also taken. They had no press centre minder with them.
They were held at the checkpoint for about 45 minutes. At the first checkpoint the BBC IDs were inspected so it was clear they were journalists.
Feras: "They took everything, cameras, mobiles, asked for any memory cards and the bad thing was they asked ‘who’s gun is this in the car."
Did they show you a gun? Did the driver have one? "No, there was no gun in the car."
Chris: "they weren’t too bad to us."
The team was taken next to a barracks on the main highway, known locally as the kilometre 27 centre. They were interrogated by an officer who asked if they had permission to be out reporting.
Chris: "We’d passed the barracks before, it had a distinctive black and white tank outside it."
Feras: "I think it was the main headquarters outside the city. It was a huge barracks."
Gok: "we stayed in a room for a while there was nice captain he gave us Turkish coffee and cigarettes."
F: "they wanted to know how journalists worked, how Sky worked when they were in Zawiya. I told them in general how we work. He had some information but wanted details."
F: "we were there about another 30 minutes and then a bad guy arrived, he had three stars on this shoulder, a captain."
G: "He looked pissed off, he was a tall guy, aggressive as he came into the room."
C: "It was almost like good cop, bad cop. The good one left and then the other one stormed in."
F: "he asked a few questions in a very bad way, in Arabic. He was aggressive. I tried to explain we had only been in Zawiya a week before with the authorities. He said something bad about Palestinians, a lot of bad things and he asked his team what they thought about Palestinians and they said the same things. He thought they had helped the Palestinians a lot, but Hamas has given a very bad reaction to Qaddafi. Lots of bad language. When I tried to respond he took me out to the car park behind the guard room. Then he started hitting me without saying anything. First with his fist, then boots, then knees. Then he found a plastic pipe on the ground and beat me with that. Then one of the soldiers gave him a long stick. I’m standing trying to protect myself, I’m trying to tell him we’re working, I’m a Palestinian, I have a good impression of the country. He knew who we were [i.e. journalists] and what we were doing."
"I think there was something personal against me, they knew me and the sort of coverage I had been doing, especially from Tajoura the Friday before. I think they monitored the BBC and had an idea, not just the reports but also DTLs.[interviews from the studio with a correspondent in the field] They don’t like us or Arabiya or Jazeera."
"He told me to return to the room and not to tell the other guys anything."
At this point Chris managed to get a call out – he hadn’t been searched and had a phone – calling for help,
C: "We knew we were in trouble then. I said this is not good."
F: "the captain came in again after 5 minutes, and asked if I spoke to the other guys. They had asked me if I was all right and I said ok. One of the guards said yes he said one word. So he took me out into the yard again."
"He asked the other guards to come and started to hit and kick me. I was speaking with him saying I only said yes and I explained we were nervous. At this point he sent me back to room after he cuffed me with plastic cuffs behind my back."
G: "we were shocked when we saw him."
C: "Obviously the whole situation was deteriorating. In English he said to me one question and you die. He asked me if I had worked with National Geographic. Obviously they were doing their homework."
Feras was taken outside the room where they were being questioned, and was beaten by a captain and others.
F: "they hit me with a stick, they used their army boots on me, and their knees."
"It made it worse that I was a Palestinian… and they said you’re all spies. Sometimes they said I was a journalist who was covering stories in a bad way.
"They put us in a car and the captain, the one who beat me, told the guard ‘if they say one word kill them.’"
"He said to Chris, one question and you die. He said if I say one word in English, he’d kill me"
The car had a driver, and a guard. He kept his gun levelled on them throughout the journey.
G: he was pointing the gun at us, one of each of us in turn, an AK 47.
They drove back towards Tripoli, past the Rixos hotel.
G: I felt horrible passing the hotel. The soldier had his finger on the trigger and I was worrying it would go off when we went over a bump.
C: "It made it even worse, an extra stab in your morale seeing the hotel appear and disappear but it was good because we knew exactly where we were."
It looked as if they were going to be driven into a military compound.
C: "I thought it was a good sign we were going to a legitimate barracks, it was compound with an eagle on the gate, but we went straight past the front gate down a back street. The building was down the side, attached to the barracks and not behind the perimeter wall. It was a dirty scruffy little compound about 100 metres square. It was still light when we got there."
G: "there was a big iron gate. It looked like a film set, like an execution place. They took us out of the car and the middle of the compound there was a cage, they put three of us in the cage and the last thing I saw before the door shut they hit Feras with an AK 47. We started hearing him groaning. They turned up the radio, all Qaddafi songs."
C: "They were wearing uniforms with no badges of rank. Some of then had their faces covered."
F: "they were kicking and punching me, 4 or 5 men. I went down on to my knees. They attacked me as soon as I got out of the car. They knocked me down to the ground with their guns, AK-47s. I was down on my knees and I heard them cocking their guns. I thought they were going to shoot me. It was a fake execution. Then they took me into the room."
It seemed to be something like a guard room. Plain concrete with a heavy door, looked like a cell though they wondered if the guards slept there.
F: "They took me inside and left me alone for a few minutes and then they started. It was three by four, iron door, like a cell. After 15 minutes they were hitting me and kicking me very hard, the worst since I arrived, they put cuffs on my legs. They put three layers over my face, something like a surgical hat, the thing a nurse would wear but over my face."
"I was on the floor on my side, hands and feet cuffed, lying half on a mattress, and they were beating me."
"Before they covered my face up a big black guy, a very strong guy pulled my head back by my hair and hit me on the face."
"They were saying I’m a spy working for British intelligence, they asked me about the $400 and £60 and some dinars I was carrying. They asked if I was given the money from the intelligence department I worked for."
"I can’t remember how long it went for."
G: "it was about half an hour we could hear it…I think it was Feras maybe it was another inmate. Driver was constantly praying. We could hear screams I thought it was Feras."
At this point Chris was able to ring the BBC team in the Rixos hotel again. In the call he said the Libyan were torturing Feras.
C: "I waited until I calculated the guard had walked off and chanced it. The driver was going spare, he knew that if we were caught with a phone at that stage, let alone actually using it, it would make things even worse, if that was possible."
F: "After they finished beating me they taped the mask on my head with gaffer tape.. Then another guy came in and I heard him ask the other guards why have you covered his face, he’s a journalist, he can’t breath, he told them to uncover my face. I was like that struggling to breathe for 7 or 8 minutes. I was in a very bad position my face was on the floor. They pulled the mask back."
G: "the black guy came into our cage and they put masks on us. Gaffer taped them on and handcuffed us. They took the driver out and then me. They said in Arabic go I thought they would shoot us from behind, I was saying in Turkish that I’m a friend. I thought they would shoot us, I could hear guns loading. I was scared to death I thought it was the execution moment."
C: "I could see out from the mask, I wasn’t convinced we were going to be shot. I wasn’t being pushed around as if they were about to shoot me. They helped me get out of the cage. It was a bit of a drop and they helped me down, it still wasn’t pleasant. I could breathe. I think they did this [masked them] so we couldn’t see the surroundings when they led us to the cell."
The driver was taken elsewhere. In the room/cell they rejoined Feras
G: "his face was pale, and twice the size. His hands covered in blood
F: "a good guy had cut the cuffs off. They were so tight he cut me slightly. They put other cuffs on less tight."
G: "he was lying on the floor, cuffed."
C: "It was another down, we were hooded and cuffed and we saw Feras bent double, lying on the floor, face swollen, obviously in pain."
G: "I was really scared, panicked; Chris was trying to say to me it was going to be OK. I thought they were going to kill us and blame Al Qaeda or the rebels."
F: "I was taken back out to the cage and the others were left in the room."
C: "It was probably the guardroom, where the guards usually rested, there was a metal door but it wasn’t locked and bolted the whole time. We were from about half eight or nine until 3 in the morning."
There was no food, or water or access to lavatories. Only at the beginning after having been there an hour or so had we been allowed out in the yard to urinate. Throughout the night they could hear the screams of people being tortured. Goktay said he saw women who had injuries, he presumed inflicted by their interrogators.
A young man from Zawiya was brought in to the room/cell where Chris and Goktay were held.
C : "He was terrified. He prayed all night. He peed himself. They threw the mattress out. He kept making throat slitting gestures as if he knew he’d die, but he made it clear those gestures applied to us too. The guards kept coming in, screaming at him, terrorising him. They wouldn’t let us stand up. If we did they’d scream at us too. The guards were also making throat slitting gestures to all of us."
C: "We were pretty much left alone but not allowed to stand up and stretch. they got angry if we tried. They didn’t mind us talking."
C: "I sat on a filthy mattress with my back against the wall but facing the door so I could anything that happened outside when it opened and through a crack when it was closed. I didn’t sleep a wink, just watched the seconds tick by and trying to remain upbeat, trying to read something optimistic into every little incident. Gok & I shared the few cigarretes we had sparingly through the night, and then smoked the butts of the floor. It was cold but I didn’t want to use the filthy blankets, or have them see me huddled & pathetic, though Gok told me later I sometimes was shaking".
Feras was in the yard in the metal cell, described as something like a prison van but without wheels. One guard believed Feras when he said he was a journalist, and cut off his plastic handcuffs. He spent the night doing what he could for the other prisoners, who were all handcuffed. Some of them told him they had been arrested because their phone calls had been intercepted – including ones to the foreign media. At first there were four others already in the cage, two Egyptians who said they had lost their papers and two Libyans. Later they were joined by others.
F: "I spent the night in a cell. There were 10 to 12 men from Zawiya. Some were in a bad situation, with broken ribs."
Four of the other captives brought in after Feras were masked, with ankles and wrists cuffed. They were from Zawiya.
"The four from Zawiya tried not to tell me anything but later one of the guards told me they were fighters from Zawiya."
"All the guys were handcuffed and asking me to help them. There was water, one of them had 2 or 3 Marlboro so the good guard gave me a light. I helped them with water, helped them to pee."
"I was looking out of the cage. Cars were coming and going. I saw them bring in a guy and 3 girls, prisoners, too."
"Two of them told me they had broken ribs. The four who were masked, I helped them breathe by lifting their masks, saw they had been badly beaten."
"The four who were masked said they had been three days without food and with arms and legs cuffed. They said where they were now was like heaven compared to where they had been. They said they had been tortured for three days, and were from Zawiya. the four all knew each other. They didn’t want to talk much. None of them said they were involved in fighting but the guard told me. Their hands were swollen and so were their faces."
"In the cage they were talking about what might happen next. They were speaking of their situation. Two of them asked me to burn their cuffs with a cigarette I refused. One of them said he had bad pains in his stomach, I called the guard who said shut up and let him die, don’t ask again."
The others were reunited with Feras and with their taxi driver when they were moved to another building at about 0300. They were crammed into a pick up with a steel box on the back with other detainees.
C: "we were crammed in worse than sardines. The others were so badly beaten, and it was so full, that every time you moved someone screamed. They had mashed faces, broken ribs. We were handcuffed, really tightly, behind our backs."
G: "We were put into a vehicle, a pick up with an iron box on the back. Almost twenty of us. It was 3.30 in the morning, I saw the clock on the car."
C: "there was a jumble of arms and legs and bodies. They were beating one man who couldn’t get in because it was too full, so we pushed up to make space for him. There was a community feeling in there. People were trying to help each other. Some people without handcuffs heaved me up to help me sit."
F: "our driver told me we were driving towards the airport."
They were driven to a building that was much cleaner and seemed better organised. They believe it was the headquarters of the foreign intelligence service.
C: "It was smarter than the other places, better organised, less chaotic… It was good we hadn’t been driven out of Tripoli into the countryside."
F: "I saw one of the guys who arrested me at Tajoura last Friday. He said Feras you again and punched me on the side of my head."
G: "There was a big operation going on. Lots of people. I could hear screams coming from the second floor. I could see people being taking to other parts of the building hooded and handcuffed."
C: "I could hear howls and yelps of pain [coming from the building]. There was a lot of coming and going."
Outside the building they were lined up facing the wall, and told to bend their heads and not look up. One of them screamed at Chris when he did look up. A man moved down the line with a small sub-machine gun equipped with a silencer.
Chris: "As you walk up the steps there was a big entrance and I was last in line. There were four of us including the driver. We were lined up against the wall facing it. I stepped aside to face a gap so they wouldn’t be able to smash my face into the wall. A man with a small sub machine gun was putting it to the nape of everyone’s neck in turn. He pointed the barrel at each of us. When he got to me at the end of the line, he pulled the trigger twice. The shots went past my ear… "
"They all laughed as though it was very funny. There was a whole group of them in plain clothes."
"After the shooting incident one man who spoke very good English, almost Oxford English came to ask who we were, home towns and so on. Big fat chap. He was very pleasant, ordered them to cut off our handcuffs. When he had filled in the paper work, it was suddenly all over. They took us to their rest room. It was a charm offensive, packets of cigarettes, tea, coffee, offers of food."
F: "One man said to me, sorry it was a mistake by the military. But he said you were wrong first because you went out without permission."
They sat there for another seven hours until they were returned to the Rixos hotel and released.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
In this 2007 interview, Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif tells Newsweek's Christopher Dickey about Libya's ransom demands for five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor held eight years and sentenced to death on trumped up charges.
A revealing exchange as Defense Secretary Robert Gates was greeted by Gen. David Petraeus upon landing in Afghanistan on March 7: