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Libyan Writer Mohammed el-Jahmi
الكاتب الليبي محمد الجهمي

Mohammed el-Jahmi

Friday, 15 October, 2010

At a UN Watch sponsored event
Mohamed Eljahmi’s speech
at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland
on September 16, 2010-09-18

Part 1:

Part 2:

At a UN Watch sponsored event
Mohamed Eljahmi’s speech
At the UN in Geneva, Switzerland
on September 16, 2010-09-18

Thanks to UN Watch and Freedom House for standing with the Libyan people by defending their human rights. I am honored to be here with you to speak about my late brother Fathi Eljahmi and his struggle to advance democratic reform and human rights in Libya.

Libya’s long night began on September 1, 1969, when Muammar Qadhafi led a coup, which overthrew a constitutional Monarchy. At the time, Libya was a young country trying to find its way. It wasn’t perfect but it was in a much better shape than the Libya today.

Today, in Qadhafi’s 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).

In Libya, the fulfillments of 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”.

In the political climate that emerged in Libya to be a dissident was to risk jail, disappearance, torture, and even death.

Yet, on August, 13 1991, Fathi Eljahmi wrote a letter that eloquently described the situation in Libya to Mr. Qadhafi. He said that, “I told your aides namely, Mustafa Kharobi and Abdala Mansour, the country will eventually face disaster, because power has grown for few, while apathy and corruption and terror have become pervasive within society. Young and old know that the Qadhafis are the sole decision makers and I believe that is true.”

It was in this suffocating and dangerous context that Fathi Eljahmi, chose to speak out for free speech and human rights. He was a courageous man. He was also my mentor and a father figure. He was an unconditionally loving and generous husband, son, and brother.

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.

On October 22, 2002, he committed the “crime” that would eventually lead to his heroic death. He presented to the Basic People’s Congress a vision for healing Libya and re-defining its relationship with the outside world.

He called for the creation of a constitution, 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 Mr. Qadhafi to take moral responsibility for the Lockerbie and UTA bombings as well as the wars in West Africa. He called on Mr. Qadhafi to show sincerity to his own people.

That day Fathi was taken straight to prison and he spent the next 17 months there until then Senator Biden interceded on his behalf.

After his release, Fathi refused to be silenced and continued his call for freedom and human rights.

From March 26, 2004, when he was detained again, and until his death on May 21, 2009, Fathi has endured intense torture, isolation and slow death. He was isolated from the outside world for nearly two years. He was not even allowed to see his family. 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.

Fathi’s family also endured abuse at the hands of Libyan Security. In April 2008, for example, Fathi’s wife, who was 58 year old at the time and also a diabetic, was interrogated for hours by state security along with her children. The interrogation was conducted by General Mustafa Muakaf, a violent thug with a reputation for brutality. As Muakaf interrogated family members, an officer stood steps away with a machine gun.

The Qadhafi Foundation, led by Mr. Qadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam, has dished its own version of harassment. Saleh Abdel Salam – an aide to Saif al-Islam delivered a message to the family saying, “If we ever release your father, and if he speaks again. We will cut off his head and ship it in a box to the Americans and the West.”

Eventually and due to torture, Fathi slipped into a coma due to torture and medical neglect. On May 5, 2009, the Libyans flew my brother to a hospital in Jordan where he died.

Fathi was not the only Libyan to give his life for freedom and human rights.

In 1993 – one month before receiving his US citizenship – dissident and former diplomat Mansour Kikhia was kidnapped by Libyan intelligence from a Cairo hotel. Kikhia was also diabetic, he was a good man – an intellectual. Kikhia was smuggled to Libya, where he was executed by the Qadhafi regime.

Likewise, journalist Daif al-Gazal was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in June 2005. Why?, because Daif al-Gazal has written Internet articles criticizing Qadhafi’s death squads and corruption in Libya. They dismembered his body, cut off his fingers, poked his eyes and shut him in the head.

In June 1996, Libyan state security massacred some 1,200 political prisoners at the Abu Slim prison, south of Tripoli. There has never been an independent investigation into what happened or where the bodies were buried. The families of victims were deprived of giving traditional Islamic burial ceremony for their loved ones.

For years, the families of Abu Slim victims were tricked into believing their loved ones were alive. Families would drop off food, clothing and medicine at the prison for their loved one - in Qadhafi’s prison, if you are a political prisoner, your family is responsible for feeding you and bringing you clothes and medicine. But the prison Warden Amr Meslati – he is one of Qadhafi thugs and died few year back. He would force other prisoners remove the name tags of the items so he could sell them at his Tripoli store. That is the reality that Qadhafi has created in Libya.

Minorities in Libya also face constant oppression. For example, Berber parents are forbidden from giving their newborns native Berber names. In the south, the Libyan Tabu face mistreatment and injustice at the hands of the thugs of Libyan Security. Tabu children are neither issued birth certificates nor allowed admission into schools.

Libyan Jews were also victimized. Qadhafi ordered the destruction of all Jewish cemeteries in Benghazi and Tripoli.

Mr. Qadhafi’s domestic brutality is matched by his international terrorism. It is a shame that some business leaders and politicians in the West have chosen to sacrifice principle for geopolitical or business expediency and embrace such a violent dictator.

Take the British and Scottish governments, for example, which are indifferent to the plight of ordinary Libyans, but chose to release convicted Libyan terrorist al-Meghrahi on “compassion grounds.” al-Megrahi received a hero’s welcome in Qadhafi’s Libya.

Conversely, the peaceful Libyan dissident, Fathi Eljahmi’s dead body was flown back to Libya in the cargo hold of a commercial plane and without having received a proper autopsy.

Mr. Megrahi blew up an airplane in midair and killed 270 people in the plane and on the ground, while Fathi Eljahmi’s “guilt” was speaking truth to power and expressing the aspirations of most Libyans for democratic change. The odious Meghrahi continues to live on thanks to first rate medical care provided by the Qadhafi regime. Fathi is buried under the ground. Mansour Kikhia has disappeared and his family never received his body - that is the reality in Libya, terrorists are treated with care.

Are ordinary Libyans and Libyan dissidents not also deserving of Western compassion? I am asking and that is the question of many Libyans.

After seven years of Western rapprochement, Mr. Qadhafi enjoys legitimacy, while his brutality against the Libyan people continues.

It is against Western interests to compromise values in order to appease Qadhafi, the same Qadhafi who has Western and Libyan blood on his hand. I call on Western diplomacy to look at all Libyans with compassion – not just Libyan terrorists.

My family asks the UN Human Rights Council investigate Fathi’s imprisonment and torture in Libya. We also seek an investigation of the cover up role played by the Arab Medical Centre in Amman, Jordan, which to this date, refuses to turn over Fathi’s medical report to the family.

The UN Human Rights Council should do the right thing by standing with the Libyan people. An international and independent investigation is needed in the Abu Slim prison massacre.

I contrasted to you the treatment of Megrahi and my [late] brother. Megrahi is a terrorist, while my brother was a courageous dissident.

Now, let us contrast the treatment of Charles Taylor and Qadhafi. Charles Taylor, we know is a criminal. He is standing trial for war crimes, but who financed Charles Taylor and who provided with logistical support to Charles Taylor – Mr. Qadhafi and his regime.

Charles Taylor is facing war crimes, [while] Qadhafi is still at large. So, Fathi Eljahmi was correct, when he, on Libyan soil, called Qadhafi , “A war criminal responsible for the wars in West Africa.” It is only justice, if Qadhafi is investigated and brought justice for [his role] in the West Africa wars. But then again, Libya sits on the Council, which has traditionally done very little to help the human rights situation in Libya.

This must change. It can change – if we have the courage, like Fathi, to speak truth to power.

May every victim of Mr. Qadhafi’s terror rest in peace. Thank you.

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