A glance at the events in Libya
News reports in the last couple of weeks have been filled with ongoing events in Libya. For those who haven’t heard yet, there have been a series of hair-raising violent protests going on in Libya. Some political analysts claim that Libya is on the brink of a civil war given how ferocious the demonstrations have been. Even though its too soon to tell whether or not the protests will go that far, the effects of it have been felt by not only the Libyans who are surrounded by violence, but also citizens all over the world who are now faced with the gas crunch. The uprising which has been labeled “the bloodiest yet” against a long reigning ruler has knocked out nearly 50% of its 1.6 million barrels per day output, hence the hiked prices of gas all over the world. Given that Libya is one of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers, gas prices are bound to only get higher if things don’t get better in Libya. The hike in gas prices does not only affect car owners who have to pay a little more for gas, but will also determinately affect the prices of goods and services in some nations.
President Muammar Gaddafi, who has been the leader of Libya since 1969, is still desperately clenching onto his presidential seat, like a king would his throne, the latter deservedly so. His reign has been nothing short of despotic, erratic, oppressive, and antagonistic towards other nations. The people’s response to his long-term abuse is long overdue. Muammar has been involved in some questionable activities that have never commanded as much attention as they are now. There have been reports of unlawful deaths and violence in Libya, dating back to early January of this year. Although Gaddafi initially denied any involvement in these activities, sources in Libya say the president and people in his inner circle are behind all attacks.
The situation in Libya, although unique, isn’t something new to the world. Over the last few months, we have seen citizens of different nations take matters into their own hands and oust autocratic leaders who have been in power for an extended period of time.One would think that given recent events in Northern Africa (Tunisia, Ivory Coast) and Egypt, Muammar would have been smart enough to relinquish power and allow for peaceful change in the nation. That however has not happened, and instead he has responded to peaceful protests with violence, and torture of innocent citizens who only seek justice and freedom in their homeland.
Even though the people have formed a united front against the government, Muammar’s army remains unmatched for the opposition forces. His army reclaimed the areas originally secured by the opposition. Citizens live in fear of losing their lives or being attached by Muammar’s army and therefore can’t even go out at night. There is also a shortage of basic needs like food and medical care in Tripoli, the nation’s capital, as the government has taken over supply.
Words fail, as one wonders how to sufficiently describe the gross violation of the rights of the people of Libya. First of all, any leader who views violence as a solution to a problem (and purposely suppresses justice) automatically loses the legitimacy to rule. Muammar Gaddafi has proved on so many occasions that what he desires is not an avenue to be a trustworthy and democratic leader, but rather a pompous tycoon who can control his subjects, like a master would his slaves. A true democracy demands that whoever assumes power should honor the needs of the citizens he governs above his own personal ambition, because it is in and of itself a government of the people. One would be living a fool’s dream however to expect political leaders to always be forthright in their dealings. These actions are almost always forgivable, if they are within the confines of the law. Is it too much to ask though, that every leader respect the rights of the people he governs?
Various nations have responded clearly to Muammar. France and Britain (both members of the Security Council) have conceded to supporting a no-fly zone over Libya if Muammar continues to attack civilians. Last week, President Obama appealed to the international community to be ready to act, should the situation quickly deteriorate to a humanitarian crisis. The European Union stated that they would also readily engage military action in Libya, if they had the full backing of United Nations and the Arab community.
Although the international response the Libyan crisis is admirable, intervention is needed right now in order to stop what could potentially be one of the worst humanitarian conflicts of the 21st century. Opposition forces in Libya have appealed to the international community to expedite the no-fly zone policy, which would turn the odds in their favor. The Security Council is reluctant to get their hands dirty, because this could quickly turn into another messy conflict in the Muslim world.
Although the UN has often taken a back seat in matters of humanitarian conflicts correlated to politics, it was reported last Wednesday that the UN had decided to refer the current events in Libya to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This could result in one of two things: justice for the people of Libya, or a long and uneventful trial with no resolve. Regardless, it is commendable to see the UN engage its resources in an attempt to stop the ongoing mayhem. The Security Council of the UN has officially launched an arms embargo and asset freeze which is not only significant in the fight to protect the rights of the people of Libya, but also sends out a message to other political leaders who might follow in Muammar’s footsteps.
It is really surprising however to see the Security Council step up, after a series of disappointing results in the last couple of years, most notably, the Darfur ruling in which three of the five Security Council members abstained from voting to send the case to the International Court of Justice, decidedly, very little effort has been made to bring the human rights violators in question to justice. The sanctions imposed on Libya are a great start to achieving justice. However, it’s a tough road ahead, and all the necessary steps to ensure that justice is served still have to be taken. In the past, cases presented before the ICJ haven’t always yielded favorable outcomes, and some have dragged out for years without any ruling. Here’s to hoping that this case will be followed through to the very end, and that the people of Libya will receive justice.
While the world waits to see what happens next in Libya, our hopes and prayers are with the brave citizens that stake out on the streets in a fight for freedom. May they receive inspiration from the Egyptians who successfully forced their despotic leader out of power. Fingers crossed that change will come sooner than they ever thought!