The killing of Muammar Gaddafi by the NTC rebels has left some observers flabbergasted by the manner in which the former Libyan head of state met his end.
According to reports from Sirte, courtesy of Aljazeerah, “Gaddafi and an escort of bodyguards had attempted to break out of the siege of the city, which had lasted for more than a month. Their convoy was struck by French fighter jets and a US Predator drone, and a wounded Gaddafi took cover in a drainage pipe with his surviving entourage. NATO… had struck 11 vehicles that were among 75 vehicles attempting to force their way out of Sirte, but said it was unaware that Gaddafi was travelling in the convoy. ‘The vehicles were carrying a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition posing a significant threat to the local civilian population,’ NATO said.
The report further said that, “Pursuing NTC fighters fired at the group as they fled, then fought and killed some of the men guarding Gaddafi and took him captive”.
Mahmoud Jibril, the NTC’s de facto prime minister, initially said Gaddafi had been killed in a “crossfire” and that it was of no consequence what happened to Gaddafi’s body “as long as he disappears”.
On the contrary, footage shows Gaddafi alive after his capture, though bleeding from the left side of his head. He also seems to have been beaten, taunted and his body dragged in the street. Gaddafi’s remains are being kept in a meat fridge in Mesrata.
A similar fate befell Abu Bakr Younus, Gaddafi’s defence minister, and Mutassim, one of Gaddafi’s sons and former national security adviser, who were summarily killed in Sirte.
The United Nations has, however, called for an international investigation into the death of Muammar Gaddafi. This is because under the Geneva Conventions, persons captured and held prisoners may not be executed willfully but should be accorded the dues process of a fair trial. If the contrary happened – that is, if they were executed, then this would be treated as a war crime, and the culprits be held responsible and tried.
In terms of a fundamental principle of international law, therefore, persons accused of serious crimes should, if possible, be tried first and not executed summarily. Summary executions are strictly forbidden and illegal. Truth and justice require that even those who have been accused of having committed certain crimes – no matter how grave – be granted the right to be heard.
Yet the drama in which Gaddafi’s capture and eventual end has played out raises serious questions about the ability of the rebel-government to be accountable to the illegal actions by some of their militias, the fear of reprisals of those who were associated with the old, Gaddafi regime, and casts a cloud of doubt over the very ideals of justice and democracy for which the Libyan uprising was first started.
The murder of Gaddafi also brings the hypocrisy of the Western countries into sharp relief. When was NATO, or indeed any European country, ever interested in the plight of civilians in Africa on moral grounds? The involvement of NATO in Libya “to protect civilians from the tyranny of Gaddafi” was, in our view, simply an excuse to worm their way into the acquisition of commercial contracts in the oil, gas, construction and tourism sectors in Libya.
France, Britain, Italy and NATO countries used their military might to topple an African government outside the confluence and jurisdiction of NATO and Europe, to gain access to the vast natural resources of the North Africa country. Just as the Americans used Saddam Hussein to gain access to oil in Iraq, so have these European countries used Gaddafi to wage a war on an African country for economic gain.
If, on the other hand, Europeans were very concerned about human rights and good governance on the planet, we have not seen any NATO military missions in the civil uprisings in Yemen, Syria and Iran where soldiers and the police loyal to the government kill civilian protestors in the streets almost every day. Why haven’t Europeans acted with the same zeal as they did in Libya to topple these regimes?
Now suppose some African governments decided to overthrow the governments of some Western countries on account of the manner in which the nationals of African descent are treated? Would that be wrong? If so, why?
In November 2005, for example, there were widespread riots in France. The disturbances were variously called the intifada of the suburbs, the revolt of the immigrants, the youth movement, the uprising of the underclass, or the jihad of Muslims against Europe.
The riots were geographically and socially circumscribed: they affected more than a hundred and fifty suburbs, or more precisely destitute neighborhoods known as “cités” or “quartiers difficiles.” In these estates, rioters who were mostly boys operating in groups of 20 to 200, consisted of second generation migrants who were mainly Africans. The causes of the riots were racial discrimination, unemployment, and the deep feeling of social, political and economic exclusion from their French society. Thus the riots of the underclass, despised, excluded and ignored is not only a classic phenomenon in France, but also in the rest of Western Europe.
To take another example, there were widespread riots which erupted in London neighborhoods when youths protested against the police shooting of Tottenham resident, 29 year old Mark Duggan , black, on 4 August 2011, during an attempt to arrest him, on the Ferry Lane bridge, next to Tottenham Hale station. Though the police said Duggan opened fire, it was discovered that he was, in fact, unarmed. The shooting led friends and relatives of Duggan to call for a peaceful protest march to demand justice for the family. That was on 6th August. When the police failed to address these concerns of anxious crowds, rioting and looting, first in Tottenham and later in Tottenham Hale retail park. The spread of news and rumours about the previous evening’s disturbances in Tottenham sparked riots during the night of 7 August in the London districts of Brixton, Enfield, Islington and Wood Green and in Oxford Circus in the centre of London.
By 8th August areas across London were affected by widespread looting, arson and violence, with pockets of violence in parts of Battersea, Brixton, Bromley, Camden, Chingford Mount, Croydon, Ealing, East Ham, Hackney, Lewisham, Peckham, Stratford, Waltham Forest and Woolwich. There were casualties – a man was found shot and killed in Croydon, another who had been assaulted in Ealing died in hospital on 11 August. Localized outbreaks of copycat actions were reported outside London – notably in Birmingham, Bristol, Gloucester, Gillingham and Nottingham.
Commenting on the riots which were characterized by general rioting and opportunistic looting, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said the riots were “criminality pure and simple.” This, though, is a very superficial explanation of the causes of the riots. Let us quote Stafford Scott, who published in the Guardian – “The Voices of Tottenham are being marginalized” – and said:
“Those who are able to speak about the real reasons Tottenham was set ablaze are now finding themselves ignored by the local authority. One well-known reverend, who used to virtually eat, drink and sleep with the council, is no longer invited into the same room after he had the temerity to state publicly that he believed an injustice was being done. The local authority should be listening to him: he has had a glimpse into the lives of those blighted by their policies.
These actions only add to the sense of isolation and marginalisations that some in Tottenham’s black community have endured for decades. It seems that these politicians have learned little from the expensive public inquiries that they paid for, such as Scarman, Gifford and Macpherson…Martin Luther King once said that riots gave a voice to the voiceless; but the voices of those who felt moved to take to the streets in August are still very much unheard. The lessons from the 80s should tell us that ignoring them will come at a cost. These people are the “already marginalised”, or the offspring of the “already marginalised”: the ones who were excluded from school in disproportionate numbers; who were arrested and convicted under “sus” laws in disproportionate numbers; who are being stopped and searched in disproportionate numbers. They see themselves as victims too: to further marginalise them will only make them feel squeezed between a rock and an even harder place. As far as they are concerned, they are being left with no alternative but to lash out. So telling them that sentences are going to increase is akin to telling someone strapped with a bomb, “Stop or I’ll shoot!”…Equality, fairness and justice must be on the table, for without this the regeneration of Tottenham High Road will be meaningless to many of its inhabitants, and the likelihood of another riot erupting will remain a distinct possibility.”
We have digressed a little to draw attention to the social problems in Europe in order to pause a question: Should African governments, therefore, use the force of arms to intervene in cases of injustice in Europe or, should we say, wield arms to “protect civilians of African origin” who run battles with the police for social equality, justice and freedom? Is this the world we should create?
These arguments do not, by any means, suggest that EU countries and America may not take interest in what’s happening in other parts of the world. Nor do we propose that dictatorships should be tolerated. On the contrary, we feel that the issue of Libya should, in the first place, have been left to African countries to resolve peacefully.
We found it tragic and ironic that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO,) which was first constituted to combat a military threat from the USSR during the Cold War, and not against Africans or an African government, has now become a tool in the service of the United Nations against an African government. We may not be surprised that African countries, for reasons of their natural resources, will now fall victim to military incursions by Western powers thanks to the blessing of some UN resolution authorizing the use of force.
To sum up, the murder of Gaddafi raises a number of questions. If the NTC and their militia were driven by the thirst for justice and democracy in Libya in their uprising against the rule of Muammah Gaddafi, why did they kill him without according him the right to be heard in the courts of law? It seem s to us that France, Italy, Britain and other NATO countries used the pretext of protecting civilians against forces loyal to Gaddafi, to gain access to the natural resources of Libya – namely oil and gas. On the other hand, the Western intervention in Libya presents an ethical dilemma for Europe and America: should Africa countries intervene militarily in European affairs?/END