Again, hundreds of refugees from wars drown in Mediterranean


This video says about itself:

Syrian refugees left to die at sea

23 October 2013

Footage has emerged of the rescue of hundreds of Syrian refugees who say they were left to drown in the Mediterranean off the coast of Malta. Survivors said they were rescued off the Maltese coast after their boat was shot and sunk by Libya traffickers after an argument about payment earlier this month. Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull has more.

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Up to 700 migrants drown in Mediterranean as people smugglers accused of deliberately capsizing boat

More than 650 migrants are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean in two separate incidents, with humanitarian organisations calling for “legal avenues” to be opened up to enable refugees to reach Europe safely

Dutch NOS TV, quoting Libyan authorities, says 800 people dead.

By Nick Squires, Rome

4:46PM BST 15 Sep 2014

Up to 500 migrants were feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean after people smugglers deliberately rammed their boat, it was announced on Monday, as a second disaster claimed as many as 160 lives off the coast of Libya.

In the first tragedy, survivors of the sinking told officials from the International Organisation for Migration that around 500 people had been on a boat sailing from the coast of Egypt towards Malta last week and that most had drowned at sea.

The horrific story, which if confirmed would rank as the worst disaster in the Mediterranean for years, was recounted by two Palestinians who spent more than a day floating in the water before being picked up by a Panama-flagged merchant vessel about 300 miles off Malta.

They were brought to the port of Pozzallo in Sicily at the weekend, where they told their story to IoM officials.

Nine other survivors were rescued by Greek and Maltese rescue vessels.

The two Palestinians, believed to be fleeing Gaza, said the boat, packed with refugees and migrants from Syria, the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Egypt, set sail from the Egyptian coast on Sept 6.

The large group included small children and unaccompanied minors.

When the people traffickers in charge of the crossing ordered their human cargo to transfer to another, smaller boat in the middle of the sea, they refused.

A furious argument broke out and the traffickers in the smaller vessel allegedly rammed the migrants’ boat, forcing it to capsize.

“If this story, which the police are investigating, is confirmed, it would be the worst shipwreck in recent years. It is particularly grave, in that it seems to have been not an accident but mass murder, perpetrated by criminals without scruples or any respect for human life,” IOM said in a statement.

Among the hundreds of migrants who drowned was a young Egyptian boy who had hoped to earn enough money in Europe to pay for his father’s heart operation, the Palestinians said.

He clung to a life buoy along with one of the Palestinians but, suffering from exposure and hypothermia, was unable to hold on and slipped beneath the water.

In the second tragedy, more than 160 African migrants were feared dead on Monday after an overloaded boat heading for Italy capsized off the coast of Libya.

Libyan officials recovered dozens of bodies, including those of women and children, from the sea off the coast of Tajoura, to the east of the capital, Tripoli.

Just 36 people had been rescued, officials said, although the search effort was continuing.

The boat was believed to have been packed with more than 200 migrants who had paid people traffickers thousands of pounds to take them to Italy.

The two shipwrecks were the latest in a series of similar tragedies in the Mediterranean.

The wars in Iraq and Syria, poverty and unrest in the Horn of Africa and West Africa, and chaos in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gadaffi has spurred a massive exodus of refugees towards Europe.

Since 1988, more than 20,000 adults and children have lost their lives trying to reach Europe by sea, according to Fortress Europe, a website that tracks the fatalities.

Enticed by the prospect of making tens of thousands of pounds from each crossing, people smugglers were putting migrants in increasingly “decrepit and overcrowded boats, causing directly or indirectly the death of thousands of people,” the IOM said.

The organisation called on the international community to identify, catch and punish the traffickers, while at the same time depriving them of their livelihood by opening up “legal avenues” for people fleeing war and persecution to enter Europe.

The actress Angelina Jolie, who is a special envoy for the United Nations’ refugee agency, also urged the international community to “wake up to the scale of the crisis.”

“There is a direct link between the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere and the rise in deaths at sea in the Mediterranean,” she said.

“We have to understand what drives people to take the fearful step of risking their children’s lives on crowded, unsafe vessels. It is the overwhelming desire to find refuge,” she said.

Mediterranean shipwrecks leave over 700 refugees dead, many fleeing Mideast wars: here.

Stop war crimes in Libya, Amnesty says


This 27 July 2014 video is called Libya in crisis as violence intensifies between armed militias.

In 2011, NATO started their war against Libya. Just after the Libyan government had aimed at a bigger share of Libyan oil money. NATO did not call that their official reason for starting their war, though. They said they suspected that the armed forces of the Gaddafi regime would fire on civilian areas of Benghazi city.

So, they started killing civilians (and sometimes, even anti-Gaddafi rebels) themselves throughout Libya. After much bloodshed, they reached their regime change goal. The regime changed, the bloodshed continued.

From Amnesty International:

6 August 2014

Libya: Indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Tripoli and Benghazi amounts to war crimes

Amnesty International is calling for all sides to immediately stop the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Tripoli and Benghazi where clashes in recent weeks have evolved into two separate armed conflicts. Such indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amount to war crimes.

Intense fighting between rival armed groups and militias in both cities has killed 214 people and injured 981, according to the Ministry of Health, as well as causing damage to civilian property. Medical workers reported that the dead and injured included civilians, in particular women and children.

“The warring parties in Tripoli and Benghazi have displayed a wanton disregard for the safety of ordinary civilians who have found themselves mercilessly pinned down by indiscriminate shelling with imprecise weapons that should never be used in populated areas,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“All sides in both these conflicts have an absolute obligation under international law not to target attacks against civilians.”

Parties to the conflict also have an obligation to refrain from attacks that disproportionately harm civilians or fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

In one of the most tragic incidents, five members of the same family were killed when a GRAD rocket struck their home in Sawani, on the outskirts of Tripoli on 31 July. Among the dead was Na’ima Bahloul al-Dawa, who was eight months pregnant and received shrapnel wounds to the stomach causing her to miscarry. A girl around 10 years old was also killed after sustaining head injuries. Three other members of the same family including a 14-year-old boy and a woman in her sixties were injured in the same incident.

In a number of other cases civilians have been killed at home when their buildings were shelled. These include a 60-year-old man from Qasr Ben Ghashir in Tripoli on 20 July. A day earlier Anas Kamal al-Harrabi, a young boy, was also killed. Several civilian deaths have also been reported in Benghazi.

In both Tripoli and Benghazi the indiscriminate shelling of urban areas using mortars, artillery, GRAD rockets and anti-aircraft weapons has been extensive. Firing such imprecise weapons in urban areas resulting in death or injury to civilians amounts to a war crime. All parties to the conflict must cease indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and the authorities must launch effective and independent investigations into all credible allegations of war crimes perpetrated during these two conflicts.

“Armed groups involved in the fighting have demonstrated a recklessness towards civilians and their property in recent weeks, launching indiscriminate attacks while paying little attention to the devastating consequences of such irresponsible actions,” said Philip Luther.

In and around Benghazi, a coalition of Islamist militias and armed groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, which was recently re-named the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, has been engaged in a conflict against armed forces allied with retired General Khalifa Haftar since mid-May.

In Tripoli, rival militias from Zintan and Misratah and their respective allies, have been fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport since 13 July.

Indiscriminate shelling in urban areas surrounding the capital’s airport has prompted thousands of residents to flee. Many of them, including foreign diplomats and aid workers, fled across the border to Tunisia. According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, some 30,000 people crossed the border into Tunisia over the last week, many of them Egyptian workers. Airports in both Tripoli and Benghazi have been shut due to the spiralling violence.

Damage to civilian buildings and infrastructure

As well as the rising civilian death toll, persistent shelling has caused significant damage to civilian buildings and infrastructure in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Scores of civilian homes, as well as factories, mosques and shops, have been damaged or destroyed in the residential areas of Qasr Ben Ghashir, Al-Akwakh, Kremiya and along the main airport road in Tripoli. Farms have been shelled and livestock killed in Qasr Ben Ghashir, according to local authorities. Dozens of houses in the area have been reportedly looted or vandalized by criminal gangs. The looting of private property during armed conflict is prohibited under international law.

The attack on the Zintan militias, in charge of protecting Tripoli International Airport since the fall of Colonel al-Gaddafi, has damaged several buildings and 20 aircraft, according to state officials. The airport has been repeatedly attacked, including with GRAD rockets, since 13 July. While most civilians living in the vicinity of the airport left their homes in the first week of the fighting, others have been unable to leave as a result of shelling or because of a general fuel shortage in the city.

Residents in Tripoli reported a shortage of food, baby milk and medicine for the treatment of chronic diseases as a result of the closure of roads in the southern areas of the city.

Damage to the power station in southern Benghazi and major transmission lines in Tripoli caused by shelling has also caused power cuts in both cities.

At least three medial facilities were damaged in the fighting in Tripoli and two medical warehouses destroyed. A medical clinic and medical warehouse in Benghazi were also partially destroyed as a result of shelling.

Al Afya clinic, the largest private hospital in Tripoli, just 3km away from Tripoli International Airport, was damaged by a GRAD rocket and gunfire after an armed group established a base around 200 metres away from which it was launching attacks on the airport. Staff said that at the time of the shelling there were hundreds of people including medical works, patients and visitors at the hospital. The clinic remained open for the treatment of wounded fighters and civilians in the area but was forced to shut down completely on 17 July after it was hit by mortar fire.

LIBYA STRIKES CATCH U.S. BY SURPRISE “Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts. The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines.” [New York Times]

US officials have confirmed that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates combined forces to carry out air strikes in Libya, according to a report Tuesday in the New York Times. The extraordinary intervention was aimed at Islamist militias fighting for control of the international airport outside of Tripoli, the Libyan capital. Air strikes on the militia from Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, fighting near Tripoli took place on August 18 and again on August 23, according to local reports that were unable to identify the origin of the warplanes conducting the raids: here.

Islamabad, Sep2 (BNA) The Government of Pakistan has evacuated 261 of its nationals from war-ravaged Libya: here.

The United States embassy compound in the Libyan capital of Tripoli has been raided by militiamen, but no Americans were present as the embassy was evacuated more than a month ago: here.

PREPARATION is underway for a ‘decisive’ battle, to storm the city of Benghazi and expel the Islamist militias, by pro-US forces led by Major-General Haftar: here.

France: Paris is calling for a new intervention in Libya, supposedly to fight the Islamist forces it armed during the 2011 NATO war: here.

British government censorship about torture


This 2011 video from the USA is called Files Reveal U.S. & Britain Had Extensive Ties With Libya on Rendition, Torture. 1 of 2.

This 2011 video from the USA is called Files Reveal U.S. & Britain Had Extensive Ties With Libya on Rendition, Torture. 2 of 2.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Government ‘censored torture and rendition documents’

Monday 4th August 2014

THE government was yesterday accused of censoring critical documents to hide its involvement with CIA torture and rendition.

According to a letter from former foreign secretary William Hague to human-rights charity Reprieve, the government has “made representations” to the US Senate ahead of its publication of an intelligence select committee report.

“In plain English, it is a request to the US to keep Britain’s role in rendition out of the public domain,” said Reprieve director Cori Crider.

The dossier, expected to be published any day, will provide declassified information on US-British cooperation in Gaddafi’s Libya.

Among the details might be the case of Libyan opposition Islamist leader Abdel-hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima, who were arrested with the alleged assistance of the MI6 in 2004.

The couple were later returned to Libya on a rendition aircraft.

Mr Hague said intervention into the report’s publication had been made “to seek assurance that ordinary procedures for clearance of UK material will be followed.”

Reprieve believes this to be a revealing change of tactic as the Foreign Office stance had so far been that “the release of the committee’s report is a matter for the United States.”

Ms Crider said: “The government protested that the United States would be angered if this kidnap case ever went to trial — and now we learn the British government is leaning on the US not to air Britain’s dirty laundry.

“It exposes their litigation stance as mere posturing.”

Late in 2011 Mr Belhaj started legal proceedings against the role of the British government in his rendition and torture at the hands of the Libyan regime.

United States embassy diplomats flee Libya


This 26 July 2014 video is called BREAKING NEWS – US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes in Tripoli.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

US evacuates Tripoli embassy as rival militias push Libya towards war

Memories revived of Benghazi assault in which American ambassador died as last-minute ceasefire talks collapse

Chris Stephen in Tripoli

Saturday 26 July 2014 18.04 BST

The US embassy in Tripoli staged a dramatic evacuation in the early hours of Saturday, with other embassies debating whether to follow suit as Libya hovers on the brink of full-scale war. Efforts by diplomats and prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni to engineer a last-minute ceasefire between warring militias have collapsed and the capital echoes to the sound of artillery and rockets.

Fighting is also continuing in the eastern city of Benghazi, part of a nation-wide struggle between an Islamist-led alliance and fragmented opposition.

In Tripoli, thousands are fleeing their homes under a rain of rocket, tank and mortar fire. “They phoned us to tell us to get out,” said Huda, a resident in the south-western Tripoli district of Seraj. “They told us: you have seen how the airport looks, this will be your district too.”

There are no accurate casualty figures because different militias take their wounded to their own hospitals, but estimates claim that more than 100 have died in two weeks of fighting. The health ministry said it had lost contact with its hospitals.

Tripoli’s airport is a smashed ruin after two weeks of attacks on it by a militia from Misrata against another from Zintan, which has held it since the 2011 Arab spring uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. In that uprising, Misrata, 120 miles west of Tripoli and Zintan, 90 miles south, were allies, forming the two most powerful militias which liberated the capital, backed by Nato bombing. Now they are at war.

Misratan brigades are determined to capture the airport, a valuable strategic asset. But the bombardment has reduced much of it to rubble. The main building is wrecked, the control tower holed and on the scorched tarmac are the remains of 21 planes – much of Libya’s small commercial fleet. Three volunteer pilots flew surviving jets to Malta last week.

They may not be back for a long time. International authorities have ordered Libyan airspace to be closed on Monday and there is a last-minute scramble by foreigners and Libyans to get out. Many are streaming towards the Tunisian border crossing, with Egypt having already closed its own frontier after 21 of its border guards were killed in an ambush.

The US embassy found itself in the middle of the battle, its position close to the airport road marking the frontline between the two sides. For two weeks its staff hunkered down in concrete bunkers, protected by 90 heavily armed marines. Two rockets landed outside the walls, but the embassy compound itself took no hits. Each night drones and an Orion surveillance aircraft flew low over the city.

Ambassador Deborah Jones tweeted that there were no armed drones. But armed jets linger off the coast, with an aircraft carrier stationed over the horizon and back-up Marines deployed in Sicily.

On Friday, after consultations with Washington, the order was given to pull out. Through the early hours, the sky echoed with the sounds of planes leaving. Memories are still fresh of the fate of the last ambassador, Chris Stevens, who died along with three staff when the US consulate in Benghazi was stormed by a militia two years ago. London has said nonessential staff have been evacuated and a final decision is expected to be taken by EU embassies on whether to evacuate over the next few days.

The Americans leave a city on edge. Petrol shortages have left the streets mostly empty, but on Friday night thousands gathered for a peace rally in the central Algiers Square. Amid elegant Italian-era buildings and palm trees, they chanted “Libya Hoara!” (Libya Free!) and called for all sides to stop fighting.

“This is not what I fought the revolution for,” said Mohammed, a student who joined the rebels during the 2011 uprising. “We fought for peace, and instead we get this.”

In truth, the fighting never went away. The former general national congress, instead of disarming the revolutionary militias funded them and gave them official status. In June a new parliament, the House of Representatives, was elected and is due to start work next month in Benghazi, triggering a jostling for position among the militias that threatens all-out war.

“I have been saying it all along: it has to get worse before it gets better,” said Sami Zaptia, editor of the Libya Herald newspaper. The question all Libyans are asking is how much worse it will get.

Dutch government: Dutch people, leave Libya.

Britain, Germany, France and Netherlands issue warnings after gunmen fire on armoured vehicle evacuating UK diplomats: here.

The Obama administration closed the US embassy in Libya Saturday and evacuated the staff in a military convoy, in a further humiliation for American imperialism in a country which was devastated by the US-NATO war in 2011: here.

US evacuation in Libya shows ill effects of US interventionism: here.