Prague, September 5th 2008
For the first time in more than half a century, American secretary of state is in Libya. Condoleezza Rice arrived there on Friday to meet with the man whom Ronald Reagan famously called the "mad dog of the Middle East." But Mohammed Eljahmi, brother of one of the most prominent Libyan dissidents, Fathi Eljahmi, warns that Colonel Qaddafi did not change. His brother faces death, held for years in Libyan jail.
HN: Do you think the conditions for political prisoners have changed for the better, during Qaddafi´s new era of good relations with the West?
The Libyan regime has benefited from good relations with the West but not the Libyan people. The same oppressive conditions that promote radicalism, hatred and division within Libya exist today. In Libya membership in or formation of a political party or independent labor union are crimes punishable by death. Also, according to the Collective Punishment Law a family, tribe, city or an entire region are punished when individual(s) oppose the manifesto of Colonel Qadhafi. The Collective Punishment Law was passed in 1997 under the name "Honor Law", it remains in effect and enforceable. State Security or the Revolutionary Committees have the power to imprison, punish or kill political opponents of the regime. All peaceful political opponents have suffered a similar fate, disappearance, long term imprisonment, torture or death.
HN: What is the situation with your brother Fathi now?
My brother Fathi is currently held incommunicado at Tripoli Medical Center.
He was last seen over a month ago. He is held in isolation in a small room with no access to Radio, TV or newspapers. He is not allowed to walk outside the room and two guards stand outside the room 24 hours per day. The room is bugged with Audio and Video devices and visitation is only approved by Libyan Security and the Qadhafi Foundation with direct orders from Colonel Qadhafi.
Fathi is not the only case; there are thousands of political prisoners whose fate is unknown. In Libya there are also hidden prisons that are run by Revolutionary Committees and State Security. Recently, the cases of Jamal Hajji and Idris Boufayed have received attention; both dissidents received stiff prisons sentences up to 25 years in prison for voicing a desire to participate in a peaceful public protest in Tripoli.
The Libyan regime has also stated, Fathi will be liquidated at the end of President Bush's term in office, Recently, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi has privately demanded that the Jahmi tribe disavow and disown Fathi Eljahmi and if they do they will be rewarded financially but if they don't they risk Collective Punishment. Historically, the Libyan Regime has sought tribal disownment before liquidating a political opponent.
HN: Do you think US is right, when it says Libya is a model for Iran or North Korea, for how to improve their relations with the world?
Libya is not a model of success. It is a model where the West has traded the Liberty of the Libyan people with stability of the Qadhafi regime. I believe this decision will have future implication for the West, because Colonel Qadhafi cannot be trusted and as Senator Biden aptly stated, Colonel Qadhafi's change of policies has not been met with an equal change of heart.
HN: So, in your opinion, it is not a good thing for U.S. to open full diplomatic relations with Libya? Can the Qaddafi regime change thanks to it?
The US is wrong in pursuing full diplomatic relations with the Qadhafi regime. After five years of engagement with Libya, the Bush Administration has harmed US credibility and the cause of human rights in Libya. First, the Administration failed to engage Libyan society and it appears its Lead diplomat pursues the engagement on an Ad Hoc basis. Second it failed to display the needed resolve in dealing with Qadhafi, who has bought his way out of committing terror crimes against Americans. It is naive to think that Colonel Qadhafi is capable of understanding the concept of good will in International Relation. The Libyan ruler has not changed; he is a Messianic Megalomaniac who claims to have solutions to all problems of mankind. His sons are not any different.