PR from RN- Ceasefire in Tripoli, human rights monitors and a constitutional moment-


Following up in Libya: Taking ‘ceasefire’ seriously means not firing at demonstrators in Tripoli

You don’t see death coming. With modern technology, the firepower at the behest of US and allied forces is such that the strikes that Qaddafi forces have received in the last two days of bombing may be sufficient to forever deter survivors from using force.

We must therefore think seriously about ceasefire. One knows that ceasefire is an empty word in Qaddafi’s web of deceitful tricks, but we are entering a situation where he is on the defensive, and where his troops will be increasingly reluctant to die without even seeing from where death came. But ceasefire can also mean cease all fire, which is the absolute rejection of the use of force against nonviolent demonstrators and civilians.

Nonviolence in Libya, as elsewhere, was the hallmark of the demonstrations that started when human rights lawyer Fathi Terbil was about to be arrested again on February 17, and people stood by him against Qaddafi’s goons. Then it slipped, unfortunately, in large part because of Qaddafi’s brute reaction. But there has been relentless brute reaction in Yemen for over a month now, and recently in Bahrain. The people did not resort to violence, despite the toll exacted against them, and Saleh is now crumbling. In Libya, we need to recover that hallmark, and taking ceasefire seriously is the way to recover the momentum of our ME nonviolent Revolution on the march everywhere.

UNSCR 1970 and UNSCR 1973 have it in their language: protecting civilians from the use of force by the government is the reason why these intrusive resolutions were passed, and why there was no choice, to save Benghazi, and to level the field of death commanded by Qaddafi. Now this has been achieved, or is about to be achieved. The natural continuation would be, as in Afghanistan in October 2001, to provide military support to the Libyan armed rebellion all the way to Tripoli. This may be the quickest way to get rid of Qaddadi, but the philosophy of nonviolence we support in the Middle East would not be vindicated, and the consequences would weigh heavily on Libya and the rest of the Middle East.

There is a better way: force the ceasefire advocated by Qaddafi to be serious, meaning absolute. Ceasefire means that Tripoli demonstrators can go out and demonstrate in peace without being killed, tear-gassed, and arrested. Qaddafi will say no, of course, but in that case, he will have broken the ceasefire he himself advocates, and the response can be calibrated accordingly to help  civilians get rid of his violence under the international duty to protect now embodied in the UNSC Resolutions.

In the same vein, the support to the nascent free Libya needs to be qualified. We are not interested in replacing Qaddafi by a clone, not even a more measured clone. For Libya to be free, human rights and a clear democratic path are needed, and it is time for a dual constitutional moment: the new government in power in Benghazi must be held to the same terms all democratic governments are held to, and it may be useful to revive a scheme, alas not followed then, which we suggested back in April 2003 in Iraq, and which received the support of Amnesty International and leaders in the Pentagon: the deployment of human rights monitors in those areas freed from dictatorship. Reports have emerged about unwarranted killings by rebel forces, especially against black mercenaries arrested then killed by the rebellion. This is unacceptable, and must be investigated.

It also might take some time for Tripoli to be freed, and a constitutional process is needed where Qaddafi no longer rules, a process flexible and serious enough to offer a model for the rest of the country as dictatorship recedes.

Time for a ceasefire then in Libya, on a human rights basis: the right of demonstrators in Tripoli not to be fired upon, and a constitutional, human rights-monitored process in a Qaddadi-free Libya.

Chibli Mallat, Chairman, Right to Nonviolence


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