The human rights community wakens to Libya

The human rights community wakens to Libya

Terry Glavin
National Post
February 22, 2011

An international coalition of 24 human rights groups is calling on the United States, the European Union and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council to take every appropriate measure to defend the Libyan people from the ongoing atrocities of the Gaddafi regime.

“Because the Libyan national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their population from crimes against humanity, should peaceful means be inadequate, member states are obliged to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII,” the letter reads. “Member states and high officials of the United Nations have a responsibility to protect the people of Libya from what are preventable crimes.”

The “responsibility to protect” doctrine was a Canadian innovation. The human rights coalition waging the campaign to force the UN to invoke the doctrine is led by Canadian Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva. So what is the Canadian government doing? Mewling and cringing like everyone else.

It’s long past time for “peaceful means.” Gaddafi’s goons are now firing live rounds into crowds of demonstrators in Tripoli’s main square.

If you’re curious to know what the hell the UN Human Rights Council has been up to all this time, it should tell you something that Libya is a member of the UN Human Rights Council. What a freak show that place is. A circus.

More tyrants trembling in their fear: In Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, dozens of students, trade unionists and political activists have been arrested for getting together to watch Al Jazeera and BBC News coverage of the uprisings in the Maghreb. One of Mugabe’s harness bulls confirms that 46 people are in custody for attending “an illegal political meeting” to watch the news, which was apprehended as “a way of motivating them to subvert a constitutionally elected government.”

One cannot pick up a newspaper these days without reading reports of the popular uprisings in Arab dictatorships that refer to the surprise of it all, how unthinkable these events were to everyone in the free world. Why are we surprised? Because the very international bodies and agencies that we have trusted to force into the public conscience the grievances that gave rise to these revolts have studiously shirked that responsibility. Go ahead and call me a Zionist stooge and a warmonger if you must, but first read this prophetic condemnation, written in 2009, the founder of Human Rights Watch, Robert Bernstein:

“Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.”

Not long before Bernstein wrote that, Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s North Africa director, spent just enough time admiring that dashing young Saif Gaddafi to write this Human Rights Watch report about conditions in Libya: Springtime for Hitler! And that’s just Human Rights Watch. Don’t get me started about Amnesty International.

The White House is no better. In Bahrain, we are supposed to be shocked that the people are so upset, what with that lovely King Hamad and everything: “The problem has been that we have been doing everything we can to cuddle up to the Khalifas and have been consciously ignoring at best the situation of Bahraini Shiites,” said Gwenyth Todd, a former political adviser to the Navy in Bahrain from 2004 to 2007 who was also an adviser on Middle Eastern and North African affairs at the Pentagon and the White House. “We could find ourselves in a very bad situation if the regime has to make major concessions to the Shia, unless we change our tone.”

As for the way the free world talks to the Gaddafis, the time has indeed come to change our tone.

UN Watch