Mohamed Eljahmi’s speech about human rights in Libya|
At an American Jewish Committee’s event in Newton, MA, USA
Monday, December 6, 2010
Let me begin by thanking the American Jewish Committee and its Executive Director David Harris. On December 2, 2010, the American Jewish Committee condemned Turkey’s Prime Minister for accepting the Qadhafi’s International prize for human rights. This is significant because by condemning the Turkish Prime Minister’s acceptance, AJC stood with the Libyan people while Arab and Muslim organization remain silent. Again, thank you AJC!
With regard to this evening’s topic, let me start by saying that the UN has failed to protect human rights in countries where citizens are at their most vulnerable. It doesn’t take a great deal of wisdom to know that the Qadhafi regime is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights. Yet, in 2003 Libya was elected to chair the UN Human Rights Commission and in May 2010; Libya won election to the UN’s supposedly reformed human rights body, the UN Human Rights Council.
Libya’s record and practices demonstrate its contempt for the basics of human rights. Peaceful Assembly and organization are banned and Collective Punishment is enshrined in law.
In Libya, political parties are banned and memberships in independent labor unions or parties are crimes punishable by death. There is also the Collective Punishment law or “Honor Law”, where the State has the right to punish family, city or an entire region for the wrong doing of individual(s).
Another Libyan practice is the demand for absolute loyalty to Qadhafi:
The fulfillments of Libyan citizens’ needs are tied to their absolute and unquestioning loyalty to Mr. Qadhafi. Ordinary Libyans are accountable to a vast security apparatus. Their actions are scrutinized by Orwellian institutions. Should they fail scrutiny, they face Qadhafi’s ruthless death squads, the “Revolutionary Committees”.
Such is the structure of Libya, a country that now sits on the UNHCR and sits in judgment over democracies. Its practices are worse. Allow me to provide you with just three examples of how Libya puts its theoretical contempt for human rights into brutal practice.
The first example is the one that is the least known, the Abu Sleem prison massacre.
In June 1996, Libyan state security massacred some 1,200 political prisoners at the Abu Slim prison, south of Tripoli. To date there has never been an independent investigation into what happened or where the 1,200 bodies are buried. To this date, the families of Abu Slim victims have been unable to give traditional Islamic burial for their loved ones.
The second example is Mansour Kikhia, Libya’s former UN Ambassador. Kikhia came from the family with a long history of service to Libya. He had been a human rights activist, Libya’s foreign minister and ambassador to the UN, but grew disgusted with Qadhafi’s repressive rule. In 1980 Kikhia defected to the United States. In late 1993, he travelled to Cairo to attend an Arab human rights summit. Kikhia was US resident and married to a U.S. citizen. Yet on December 10, 1993, a day that the UN has designated as human rights day, Kikhia was kidnapped by Egyptian agents from his Cairo hotel. The Egyptians handed Kikhia over to the Libyan regime, which executed him. His body has never been recovered. Kikhia left behind a wife and two young children.
The third example is my brother Fathi Eljahmi, who dared to call for change in Libya. Fathi was a visionary, blessed with a great mind and a passion for equality and justice. Professionally, he was a civil engineer, an entrepreneur, a former governor of the Gulf province and also former chairman of the Libyan National Planning Commission.
Fathi was first imprisoned on October 22, 2002, because he presented to the Basic People’s Congress a vision for healing Libya and re-defining its relationship with the outside world. Fathi called for the creation of a constitution, a civil society, for free speech, for free enterprise, for investigation into the Abu Slim prison massacre, the war in Chad and the resolution of the Lockerbie bombing, which by the way had led to the economic blockade against Libya. He called on Qadhafi to show sincerity to his own people.
Fathi was released on March 12, 2004 thanks to the intervention of U.S. politicians, among them then Senator Joe Biden. Fathi refused to be silenced and continued his call for freedom and human rights. On March 26, 2004, Fathi was abducted by Libyan Security and held until his death on May 21, 2009.
During those five years of imprisonment, he endured intense torture, isolation and slow death. He was kept away from his family for nearly two years. He was shackled in a windowless room without sunlight and served food that was not fit for human consumption. For two years, he was deprived of medications for hypertension, advanced stage diabetes, and a heart condition.
The result of the Libyan regime’s slow medical torture and neglect was that Fathi slipped into a coma. The Libyan regime did not even allow him to die in his own country. On May 5, 2009, the Libyan regime flew my comatose brother to a hospital in Jordan where he died. He returned home in the cargo hold of a passenger jet.
By contrast, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi , the terrorist responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, was released by the Scottish authorities in August 2009 and flown home in the company of the dictator’s son and senior Libyan officials on Qadhafi’s personal plane to a hero’s welcome. Scotland released the mass murderer al-Megrahi on “compassionate grounds”—compassion being precisely what the Libyan regime has always denied its citizens.
At the UN in Geneva, I have called on the UN Human Rights Council to launch an international and independent investigation in the Abu Slim prison massacre. I have called on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Fathi’s imprisonment and to investigate torture in Libya. I also called for an investigation into the role played by the Arab Medical Centre in Amman, Jordan, where my brother died. The Arab Medical Centre in Amman refuses to turn over Fathi’s medical report to the family.
What has happened to my calls for investigations? Thus far, nothing. The UN did nothing for human rights in Libya even when Libya was an international pariah. Today Libya sits on the UN Human Rights Council. Qaddafi gives speeches by video link to students at Columbia University and the London School of Economics.
I would like to end by thanking all those human rights activists such as Joshua Rubenstein and Felice Gaer for their efforts on behalf of the victims of the Libyan dictatorship. And may every victim of Mr. Qadhafi’s terror rest in peace. Thank you.