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Archive for October 2011

Gaddafi’s burial: taking secrets to the grave

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A group of men drive into the desert at dawn, open the trunks of the vehicles, and remove the dead bodies. After they’ve buried them, the men take an oath on their holy book never to reveal the location of the bodies for as long as they shall live; a secret that they will take to their own (respectable) graves.

It sounds like something from a Hollywood thriller but it is not. This was how the former dictator of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, was buried, along with his son Motassim: in a secret, unidentified grave in the Libyan desert.

Libya’s Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam confirmed that the bodies of the former Libyan dictator and his son Motassim were secretly buried to avoid any reprisals or abuse of the bodies. A bit too late for concern over abuse considering the sickening footage that was released showing Gaddafi being ‘sodomised’ during his capture, and whose dead body was broadcast for the world to see, with Libyans queuing up to take photos on their mobile phones. Gaddafi’s body was there for the world to see, but where was Motassim’s body? He is reportedly dead and buried too but there has been no evidence of that. And what about Khamis Gaddafi, the man with the nine lives who died and emerged alive more than the killer in most horror movies.

 

Dead and buried: Former Dictator Muammar Gaddafi takes his secrets to his grave Copyright @Reuters

 

By burying the former dictator’s body, the NTC must have thought that they were avoiding any further incidents or questions: how he died and why he died. The NTC have bowed to international pressure and started enquiries into Gaddafi’s death. When a government is investigating itself, you know what the outcome is going to be. But at least Gaddafi’s (and the West’s) secrets have been buried in the desert grave too. As Fisk wrote about Saddam Hussain’s execution in 2006, “We’ve shut him up. The moment Saddam’s hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington’s secrets were safe”. They sayt hat those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Actually, it is those in power, the wise ones that learn from history who repeat it, ensuring we never know the truth. Are they doomed? Certainly not. But we are, for we, the people, never learn.

I felt uncomfortable watching the capture and death of Gaddafi, as I am sure did many others. Seeing people dancing in the street and grinning made me feel even more nauseous. Whatever he was, he did not deserve to die in such a way. It is even more disturbing that one of the NTC’s senior members, Mohammad Sayeh, said: “Even if he was killed intentionally, I think he deserves this.” And they insist they were fighting for democracy? As Linda Heard wrote in Gulf News, he should be setting an example; “it’s onething for fighters to take revenge in the atmosphere of war and quite another for a political figure to bless such barbarity”.

Gaddafi’s capture should have been the start of a new Libya, an era of democracy and the rule of law, but with the world’s eyes firmly on Libya, and with Gaddafi’s former ministers playing a role in the new government, it is far from over. There is no fresh start, no ‘new’ Libya. Gaddafi was buried but the brutality lives on

I applaud Human Rights Watch, the only decent organisation which has reported on mass atrocities by rebels and Gaddafi supporters alike, something the media should have been doing. Instead we have been viewing this conflict from one side – NATO’s side. Patrick Cockburn stated that something is wrong when the only organisations that are objective and investigating thoroughly are HRW and Amnesty International. He is right.

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to terminate the mandate allowing NATO to carry out military operations in Libya.  Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, however, had said NATO should remain involved in Libya until the end of the year to help prevent Gaddafi loyalists from leaving the country. Or perhaps Jalil wishes for NATO to stay in Libya because he has little control over the country? The people in Misurata, for example, continue to defy the NTC, as does Sirte, the former leader’s birthplace. 

The Egyptians and Tunisians managed to get it right. Far from executing their dictators or burying their bodies in secret, they either let them go into exile (Ben Ali) or put them on trial (Mubarak).

As Aristotle once wrote, at his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.

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Written by Iram Ramzan

October 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Posted in middle east

Tagged with , , ,

Prying Eye: Syria, the UN and toothless sanctions

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Originally published in The Pryer: 09/10/2011

 

Could Russia and China be more unpopular in the international community? First they abstained from voting on the UN resolution in March which authorised a no-fly zone in Libya, and then on Tuesday they vetoed a Western-backed Security Council resolution threatening military action and sanctions against Syria, while South Africa, India, Brazil and Lebanon abstained. South Africa et al weren’t lectured for being spineless (for abstaining) but Russia and China bore the brunt of the world’s anger.

US envoy Susan Rice accused Russia and China of wanting to sell arms to the Syrian regime rather than stand with the Syrian people. Someone should remind Ambassador Rice that in the half-century after 1945, the United States sold the Saudis about $100 billion in military goods and services. A year ago the Obama administration announced the biggest weapons deal in US history – a $60 billion program with Saudi Arabia to sell it military equipment across the next 20 to 30 years. The Saudis are also aiding the Bahraini royal family to put down Shi’ite demonstrations. That should topple Ms Rice off her high-horse.

She went on further to say: “The courageous people of Syria can now see clearly who on this Council supports their yearning for liberty, and universal human rights, and who does not.” Furthermore, Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the veto “will be a great disappointment to the people of Syria and the wider region that some members of this council could not show their support for their struggle for basic human rights”. I suppose one can say the same about the US promising to veto a resolution for a new Palestinian state. Britain will, no doubt, do the same as its ally across the Atlantic. Clearly the Syrian people are more worthy of human rights and protection under the UNSC than the Palestinians.

Rice herself said the two countries have vetoed a “vastly watered down text that doesn’t even mention sanctions”. The resolution itself was ‘toothless’, demanding that the violence in Syria stop. The draft underwent repeated dilutions, which dropped all but the vaguest reference to sanctions as a future possibility. Basically, the resolution ‘condemning’ the Syrian government was a technical way of saying “let’s give Syria a bit of a telling off”.

The Russian and Chinese veto is neither an endorsement for the Syrian regime, nor a sign of Chinese and Russian alliance with the al-Assad regime. The aim, as Ali Younes wrote for the Palestine Chronicle, is to make a stand against the Western powers’ attempt to repeat the same methods used in Libya that eventually led to a regime change and lose their political and economic interests in Libya.

What we are seeing in Syria is an attempt by Western governments to be seen to be doing something – to use rhetoric, sanctions, everything short of military action to give the impression that they really are serious about pressing for change in Syria. With the amount of time it has taken the UNSC to do anything, the Syrian government can easily find other investors, thereby rendering the resolution useless. Sanctions, it must be remembered, affect the ordinary citizens the most, not the political elite. Sanctions were imposed on Iraq 20 years ago, and we all know how that turned out.

Written by Iram Ramzan

October 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

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