Women’s rights activist murdered, then witness murdered in brave new Libya

Salwa Bugaighis, AFP photo

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Witness of murder of activist in Libya is dead

Saturday 28 May 2014, 15:04 (Update: 28-06-14, 15:29)

The only witness to the murder of the Libyan human rights activist Salwa Bughaighis was also murdered probably. His body, covered with torture marks, was left by unknown people at a hospital in the eastern city of Benghazi, local media say.

The witness was the bodyguard of Bughaighis. He saw how she was killed, Wednesday night at her home in Benghazi with a shot through the head. Her husband has since been missing. The guard was shot in the leg. After the murder, he was taken away by police for questioning.

The situation in Benghazi is very tense. Radical Islamist militias are fighting a power struggle with a [retired] general of the Libyan army.

Swiss Red Cross boss murdered in ‘new’ Libya

This video is called You Wouldn’t Want to be Black in the New Libya.

From Reuters news agency:

Wed June 4, 2014 9:38am EDT

Gunmen shot dead an official at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the central Libyan city of Sirte on Wednesday, ICRC and local officials said.

Libyan television stations said the victim was a Swiss national who ran the ICRC office in the western city of Misrata and was visiting Sirte.

According to Dutch NOS TV:

The ICRC are in Libya inter alia to help prisoners, to find disappeared people and to help victims of the civil war.

ROGUE Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who has led repeated assaults on Islamists in Benghazi, escaped a suicide attack today. But three supporters of the retired general were killed in an attack on a villa outside the city: here.

Three weeks before a general election set for June 25, Libya is at the point of disintegration. Militias supporting rival interim prime ministers are battling it out for control of Libya’s energy resources in the east of the country and its huge currency reserves based on oil and gas: here.

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Tony Blair Iraq war crimes investigation in The Hague

This video from Britain says about itself:

Iraq torture claims: Detainees subject to ‘sexual abuse’

14 November 2009

Lawyer Phil Shiner claims some Iraq detainees suffered severe abuse whilst in UK custody.

By Jean Shaoul:

UK referred to International Criminal Court for war crimes in Iraq

3 June 2014

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has accepted the complaint lodged in January alleging that UK military personnel committed war crimes against Iraqis in their custody between 2003 and 2008. She has ordered a preliminary investigation.

It is the first step into a possible criminal prosecution against Britain’s political and military leaders, including politicians, senior civil servants, lawyers, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Defence Intelligence, who bear ultimate responsibility for systematic abuse of detainees in Iraq.

This is the first time the ICC in The Hague has opened an enquiry into a Western state. Almost all of the ICC’s indictees have been African heads of state or officials. The United States—not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC in 2002—and the other major powers get off scot-free. The ICC has turned a blind eye to the most blatant human rights abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the West Bank and Gaza, where their perpetrators are protected by a US veto at the United Nations Security Council.

At the same time, the imperialist powers cynically use the court to target people hostile to their interests. As a result, the ICC has become widely discredited.

Bensouda’s decision flows from an official complaint by the British Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) last January. Their 250-page submission, the most detailed ever submitted to the ICC on war crimes committed by British forces in Iraq, took years to compile. It documented the new facts and additional evidence that had become available since the initial complaint in 2006.

In 2006, the ICC’s then-prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said that he had received more than 240 complaints relating to alleged war crimes during the Iraq war and occupation, mostly by the US and Britain. He concluded that there was little doubt that wilful killing and inhumane treatment, crimes that fell within the ICC’s jurisdiction, had been committed. But he refused to mount an investigation because of the small number of cases—fewer than 20.

PIL and ECCHR’s compilation of evidence relating to hundreds of other victims and thousands of claims makes a mockery of his decision, which the ICC has been forced to concede. Bensouda said that she was reopening the case because the new complaint “alleges a higher number of cases of ill-treatment of detainees and provides further details on the factual circumstances and the geographical and temporal scope of the alleged crimes.” The Responsibility of UK officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008 documents claims by 412 Iraqis of severe physical and psychological abuse while in the custody of UK services personnel. The list of the most serious allegations is damning.

They include the use of sensory deprivation and isolation, food and water deprivation, the use of prolonged stress positions, the use of the “harshing” technique which involves sustained aggressive shouting in close proximity to the victim, a wide range of physical assault, including beating, burning, electrocution or electric shocks, both direct and implied threats to the health and safety of the detainees and/or friends and family, including mock executions and threats of rape, death, torture, indefinite detention and violence.

There are claims that British personnel used environmental manipulation such as exposure to extreme temperatures, forced exertion, cultural and religious humiliation. Other allegations referred to a wide range of sexual assaults and humiliation including forced nakedness, sexual taunts and attempted seduction, touching of genitalia, forced or simulated sexual acts, and forced exposure to pornography and sexual acts between soldiers.

In all, the victims made thousands of allegations of mistreatment that amount to war crimes: torture, inhuman or degrading treatment as well as the deliberate infliction of grievous suffering and/or serious injury. They were not dissimilar from those of the infamous US torture at Abu Ghraib prison. The sheer scale of the crimes, committed repeatedly at numerous sites and over a long period, testify to the systematic use of illegal methods of detention and interrogation, sanctioned at the top of the military and political chain.

UK military commanders “knew or should have known” that forces under their control “were committing or about to commit war crimes,” but failed to act. “Civilian superiors knew or consciously disregarded information at their disposal, which clearly indicated that UK services personnel were committing war crimes in Iraq.”

PIL and ECCHR specifically called for Britain’s most senior army personnel and politicians, including former Secretaries of State for Defence Geoffrey Hoon, John Reid, Des Browne and John Hutton and Ministers of State for the Armed Forces Personnel Adam Ingram and Bob Ainsworth as officials who should have to answer claims about the systematic use of torture and cruelty.

The British government has rejected the allegations. Foreign Secretary William Hague argued that there was no need for an ICC investigation because Britain had in 2010 set up IHAT, the Iraq historic allegations team, which was already examining allegations of mistreatment.

IHAT is little short of a farce. In the nearly four years since its establishment, IHAT has completed just a handful of the cases on its books, fining one soldier a measly £3,000 for badly beating an Iraqi, which was captured on video. Its case list includes 52 allegations of “unlawful death” involving 63 victims, and 93 allegations of mistreatment involving 179 victims, including all but one of the cases referred to the ICC.

Should IHAT determine that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with charges, it will be up to the director of service prosecutions, Andrew Cayley QC, responsible for bringing court martial cases, to determine whether charges are in the public interest. Furthermore, it will need the attorney general’s consent before he can charge individuals with committing war crimes under English law.

In other words, top government and military figures will determine whether charges can be brought.

A year ago, two High Court judges called for “a new approach” to the probe into the allegations made by 180 Iraqis. While they stopped short of ordering a full public inquiry, they concluded that the IHAT investigation “does not fulfil” the UK’s human rights obligations under international and domestic law, requiring there to be proper public scrutiny of these cases.

The ICC’s enquiry hinges on its confidence in IHAT. While Bensouda agreed to a preliminary enquiry, she did not ask the court to order the formal investigation under article 15(3) that PIL and ECCHR had requested. The court will only try defendants when states are unwilling or unable to do so, i.e., if the British government is unable to demonstrate it is investigating the allegations and is prepared to bring charges against the alleged perpetrators of war crimes.

The ICC has form. The imperialist powers had sought the trial in 2011 of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi during the illegal regime-change campaign waged by the American, British and French governments.

Following the gruesome murder of Gaddafi, and the capture of Saif al-Islam and al-Senussi by Libyan militias, Washington, London and Paris lost interest in an ICC trial which would expose embarrassing details about the intimate relations between the Gaddafi regime and the Western powers between 2004 and 2011.

Al-Senussi would undoubtedly spill the beans about Washington and London’s global torture network, while Saif al-Islam might call the UK prime minister Tony Blair and others as witnesses. Instead, according to the Libyan government, the ICC—at the behest of the major powers—has agreed to al-Islam and al-Senussi being tried in Libya, even though the legal process is a travesty of justice.

In retrospect, the title of this blog post could be too optimistic. One should fear that maybe a British private soldier; maybe even a lance corporal will be prosecuted for war crimes in Iraq. While the top brass and politicians like Tony Blair will not, because of pressure on the ICC by US, UK, etc. governments.

THE mother of a British soldier killed during the invasion of Iraq launched a High Court bid against the government yesterday seeking an inquiry into the circumstances of her son’s death in 2003: here.

The Law Society has demanded action from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, over a string of violent threats dating back a decade against the human rights lawyer who brought cases against British soldiers over alleged brutality in Iraq and Afghanistan. Security has been stepped up at Phil Shiner’s Birmingham-based law firm after a string of abusive messages. The messages spiked once his team withdrew claims that British troops killed unarmed civilians at an army base, following a year-long £22m public inquiry. One of the emails said: “Pick a lamppost you scum, we’ll bring the piano wire”: here.

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After NATO’s bombs on Libya, bloodshed in Africa

This video from Libya says about itself:

Troops Allied to Renegade General Haftar Behind Attack on Parliament in Libya

18 May 2014

Para-Military Troops allied to Renegade General Khalifa Haftar, former Commander in Gaddafi’s Army [and later CIA agent] are Behind the Attack on Parliament in Libya.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Coups and terror are the fruit of Nato’s war in Libya

The dire consequences of the west’s intervention are being felt today in Tripoli and across Africa, from Mali to Nigeria

Seumas Milne

Thursday 22 May 2014

Iraq may have been a blood-drenched disaster and Afghanistan a grinding military and political failure. But Libya was supposed to have been different. Nato’s war to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in 2011 was hailed as the liberal intervention that worked.

The western powers might have had to twist the meaning of the UN resolution about protecting civilians, the city of Sirte might have been reduced to rubble, large-scale ethnic cleansing taken place and thousands of civilians killed. But it was all in a noble cause and achieved without Nato casualties.

This wasn’t Bush and Blair, after all, but Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy. The people were free, the dictator was dead, a mooted massacre had been averted – and all this without any obvious boots on the ground. Even last year the prime minister was still claiming it had all been worthwhile, promising to stand with Libyans “every step of the way”.

But three years after Nato declared victory, Libya is lurching once again towards civil war. Over the past few days, the CIA-linked General Hiftar launched his second coup attempt in three months, supposedly to save the country from “terrorists” and Islamists. On Sunday, his forces stormed the national parliament in Tripoli, after 80 people were killed in fighting in Benghazi two days earlier.

Now Libya’s chief of staff has called on Islamist militias to defend the government in advance of new elections. Since the country is overrun with militias far more powerful than its official forces, riven with multiple divisions and prey to constant external interference, the chances of avoiding full-blown conflict are shrinking fast.

But these are only the latest of the clashes and atrocities that have engulfed Libya since Nato’s “liberation”: including bombings, assassinations, the kidnapping of the prime minister, the seizure of oil terminals by warlords, the expulsion of 40,000 mainly black Libyans from their homes, and the killing of 46 protesters on the streets of Tripoli in one incident — ignored by the states that supposedly went to war to protect civilians.

In reality, the west seized the chance to intervene in Libya to get a grip on the Arab uprisings. Nato air power in support of the Libyan rebellion increased the death toll by a factor of about 10, but played the decisive role in the war— which meant no coherent political or military force was ready to fill the vacuum. Three years on, thousands are held without trial, there are heavy curbs on dissent, and institutions are close to collapse.

But the US and Britain are still training Libyan troops to keep control. Before Gaddafi’s overthrow, Hiftar headed the military wing of the CIA-backed National Salvation Front. In advance of his latest coup attempt, a sympathetic US sent a force of marines to Sicily ready to intervene, and John Kerry has promised to help Libya with “security and extremism”.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are openly backing Hiftar, as is the military coup leader in Egypt, General Sisi. Having suppressed, jailed and shot in large numbers Egypt’s own Islamists, Sisi and his Gulf backers are determined to prevent them consolidating power in oil-rich Libya. There are signs that Sisi – who complains that the west failed to garrison Libya after Gaddafi’s overthrow – wants to use Libya’s crisis to send in his own forces.

But it’s not just Libya that’s living with the fallout from Nato’s intervention. Blowback from the Libyan war has spread across Africa, destabilising the Sahel region and beyond. After Gaddafi’s fall, Tuareg people who had fought for him went home to Mali, bringing Libyan arms caches with them. Within months, that had tipped northern Mali into full-scale armed rebellion and takeover by Islamist fighters.

The result was last year’s French military intervention, backed by the US and Britain. But Libya’s impact goes much wider. Among the groups whose armed campaigns have been fuelled by large-scale heavy weapons supplies from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals is Boko Haram.

Support for the fundamentalist Nigerian terror sectwhich kidnapped 200 schoolgirls last month and has been responsible for more than 1,500 deaths since the start of the year – has been fed by deprivation, drought and brutal state repression in the Muslim north.

But, as elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East, each outside intervention only spreads the cycle of the terror war. So the call for action over the outrage of the Boko Haram kidnapping has brought US, British and French forces to oil-wealthy Nigeria, just as the Mali crisis last year led to the establishment of a US military drone base in neighbouring Niger.

US armed forces are now involved in 49 out of 54 African states, along with the former colonial powers of France and Britain, in what’s becoming a new carve-up of the continent: a scramble for resources and influence in the face of China’s growing economic role, underpinned with an escalating military presence that spreads terror as it grows. That will bring its own backlash, as did the war in Libya.

Supporters of Nato’s Libyan war counter that, even if the country is now plagued by chaos and violence, there was no western military intervention in Syria and more than 150,000 have died in its horrific civil war. But of course there is large-scale covert intervention in support of the Syrian rebels by both the Nato powers and the Gulf states.

One of the ugliest aspects of western policy towards Syria is the turning on and off of that backing to keep their favoured armed groups in the game – without giving them any decisive advantage. In fact, US, British and Gulf support is being stepped up right now because of regime advances on the field.

But it defies logic to imagine that the death toll would have somehow been lower in Syria, or the sectarian conflict less brutal, if the US and its allies had launched a full-scale military attack at any stage of the conflict. The experience of Iraq, where the war is now estimated to have killed 500,000, makes that obvious enough.

But such is the expectation of routine war-making among parts of the western elite that they’re already impatient for another outright intervention. “What would America fight for?” asked the Economist plaintively earlier this month, echoing the US Republican charge of weakness in the White House. For the rest of the world, the reality of Libya and its disastrous consequences should be answer enough.

The US military launched a new deployment of 80 troops to Chad this week, in the latest expansion of a military “footprint” that stretches across the African continent: here.

Three years after the NATO-led campaign backed armed Islamist militias to overthrow the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. With rival militias fighting for control of Libya’s vast energy resources, the coup bid by retired general Khalifa Hifter’s Libyan National Army killed at least 79 and wounded more than 140 in attacks in the eastern port city of Benghazi and the capital Tripoli: here.

The State Department on Tuesday told U.S. citizens in Libya to leave immediately, warning that the security situation in the country was “unpredictable and unstable”: here.

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Beautiful bird recorded in Libya for the first time

This video from Bulgaria is called Ficedula semitorquata – Semi-collared Flycatcher.

Ever since in 2011 in Libya a movement with legitimate grievances was hijacked by domestic religious fanatic militarists, foreign Al-Qaeda militarists, foreign militarists like the Qatar dictatorship and “regime change” NATO miltarists, there is often bad news from Libya.

From racism to torture on many days to especially today, refugees fleeing Benghazi from the violence of a warlord general. That general is called Khalifa Hifter, with a second job as CIA agent), who started violence today in Tripoli as well (see also here).

Fortunately, sometimes there is better news.

From North African Birds blog:

First documented record of Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata) for Libya

Posted on 17/05/2014

Hamza, A. & Yahia, J. 2014. First documented record of Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata for Libya. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 21 (1): 83-85. PDF

An adult male Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata was photographed on 31 March 2010 at Sebkhet Hasila, on the Libyan coast about 90 km east of Sirte. Two previous observations of males were reported at two different sites between Ajdabiya and Benghazi, on 29 March and 1 April 2006. The observation presented here, however, is the first documented record for the country of this Palearctic migrant.

LIBYAN President Nouri Abusahmein ordered Islamist-led militias to deploy in the capital Tripoli today after forces loyal to General Khalifa Hifter stormed parliament. Gen Hifter’s action threatens to detonate volatile divisions among the multiple militias that dominate Libya: here.

Heavily armed militiamen reportedly loyal to a retired general with deep ties to the US Central Intelligence Agency stormed Libya’s parliament building Sunday with armored vehicles and heavy weapons, seizing its speaker and armed forces chief Nouri Abusahmain together with some 20 other officials and setting the building on fire: here. And here.

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